Game 24: Jeff Samardzija Tosses a Gem
Cubs 3 @ Reds 1
For the second straight time, I get to recap a gem of a pitching outing. Last time it was Matt Garza and this time Jeff Samardzija was outstanding. It was a game that you really had to see to fully appreciate how well he threw the baseball. The final line looks nice, but if you watched the game you saw how much he was around the strikezone each and every hitter. How he limited his pitches throughout the game and go ahead of guys early. There were several occasions, to middle of the order hitters, that he simply challenged them and blew the heat right past them. An absolutely dominant performance by the Shark tonight and I’m glad I was able to watch it.
BATS HEATING UP? – The Cubs finished the season with the lowest total in the NL for team home runs with nine. Tonight they hit a pair of solo shots, which was all the offense needed to support Samardzija. Both homers came off mistake pitches up in the zone to Bryan LaHair and Ian Stewart. For Stewart, it was the first home run he’s hit since 2010. I’ve seen it written a couple places that the Cubs believe the bats will heat up as the calendar changes from April to May. While I don’t believe in the significance of the date itself reading May as opposed to April, I do think that there are very few places to get your home run mojo going better than Great American Ballpark. Through May 1st, there have been an average of 2.685 homer runs hit per game, which is almost a full home run better than the 2nd best park, Fenway. Cite sample size if you will, but in 2011 it ranked 3rd, 8th in 2010, 6th in 2009, 4th in 2008, 2nd in 2007, 3rd in 2006 and 6th in 2005. It’s just a really nice park to hit homers in and hopefully we can take advantage again tomorrow against Homer Bailey. It just seems like it would be destiny based on his first name.
YOU MAKE THE CALL – There were a couple times when I logged in my notes things that I thought would make good You Make the Call questions. Let’s begin. The first, and most obvious situation is the one of when to pull Samardzija. He left the game with two outs in the 8th, relieved by Rafael Dolis. Dolis has looked decent this season in the setup role and ultimately got the job done. It’s easy to just look back with hindsight and say that Dale made the right call, but at the time, it frustrated me that he didn’t let Samardzija close out the inning. Looking back, without the benefit of hindsight, when do you pull Samardzija?
The second situation piggy backs right on the first one. Dolis came in and got the one batter he faced. He pitched a two inning save the other day and did fine. At that point, do you consider leaving him out there to start the 9th inning given the struggles of Carlos Marmol this season? Personally, I do. I don’t trust Marmol and so I want to do everything I can to protect a gem of an outing by Samardzija, which assures the win and that Samardzija goes to bed with confidence in himself continuing to grow after two straight night outings. Marmol got it done, but what would you have done?
The final situation was actually the first that came up in the game. In the 6th inning, up 2-1 and a man on 1st and 3rd with two outs, Geovany Soto came to the plate, which leads to a two part scenario. First, would you walk Geo to pitch to Samardzija at that point? I think I would, and it may have been the better call based on the Soto single. Second, if you walk Geo to load the bases, do you pull Samardzija at that point realizing that runs are hard to come by and this is a prime situation? I don’t think I do, but I’m sure it’s not unanimous. Thoughts?