Cubs 2 @ Pirates 0
- I don’t really like to call Jeff Samardzija The Shark, or even worse, just Shark. It seems like an unearned nickname–the kind this guy might give himself. (Perhaps I’m just unaware of the species of shark known for sporting skeevy facial hair and losing sight of the strike zone for weeks at a time–after all, I’m no Jacques Cousteau.) But whatever you want to call him, it looks like Jeff has sorted out the problems that plagued him throughout June. Monday night he pitched what might be his best game of the season. While he only posted 5 Ks and 1 BB, he was economical and highly efficient with his pitches–through 8 innings of work, he only threw 99 pitches, 71 of them for strikes. In fact, the only Pirate to reach base against Samardzija was Andrew McCutchen, first on a walk, and then in the 4th on a grounder that pulled Anthony Rizzo toward second base. If Samardzija had immediately broken for first base, it probably would have been an out and he could have kept his no-hitter alive. On the other hand, he looked as sharp as he’s looked all season, and his momentary mental lapse really only cost himself, so it’s a little hard to beat him up too much over it.
- And since he wasn’t pitching a no-hitter, Dale pulled him after the Cubs added a run in the top of the 8th. Samardzija looked fairly unhappy, and who wouldn’t be if the game of your season–nay, of your young career–was resting in the unstable, untrustworthy hands of Carlos Marmol? Early on, it looked like Marmol was trying to breath life back into the Pirates, or at least make the last outs interesting. He did manage to complete the save–even striking out a pair of batters–but he still gave any Cubs fans in attendance or watching on TV that shaky, uneasy feeling that the wheels were about to fall off again.
- The game was actually an all-around pitchers duel, with Erik Bedard recording 11 Ks and surrendering only 2 hits. Bedard actually looked as strong or stronger than Samardzija Monday night, but he burnt himself out too soon, throwing a season-high 113 pitches through only 7 innings. (The Cubs showed a little more life against the Pittsburgh bullpen, but still not much.)
- But really, the Cubs only needed one hit to beat Bedard and the Pirates. It came off the bat of Alfonso Soriano in the 4th inning, as he doubled in Starlin Castro, who had walked to lead off the inning. The two Cubs repeated the scoring performance in the 8th, tacking on another run off a second Soriano double. Other than their tandem, there wasn’t much offense on either side of the diamond Monday. Fortunately for the reeling Cubs, it was all they would need to get back into the win column.
- Rumors swirled most of Monday that the Cubs had traded Ryan Dempster to the Atlanta Braves for Randall Delgado. For all I know at this hour, the deal still could go through, in one of it’s various iterations (at one point, Jair Jurrjens was also part of the deal). But as of right now, Ryan Dempster is still a Cub. While I’ve seen no direct confirmation of these details, it seems the deal fell apart when it came time to get Dempster’s approval–one popular theory is that he balked at Atlanta’s insistence that he sign an extension. It’s an understandable demand on their part–Delgado was listed by some as the 46th or higher MLB prospect going into the season, so they’d be giving up a lot for Dempster’s remaining starts. On the other hand, Dempster has pitched well enough that he could get a sizable deal in free agency. Either way, blocking Theo & Jed‘s deal might be the best way to get himself in hot water with his current team. We’ll see if the deal survives or if it falls apart within site of the finish line, like this guy (at the 0:20 mark).
- One interesting side note: the barrage of news surrounding the rumored Dempster trade was partially kicked off by WGN’s own Len Kasper with this tweet. While there had been other reports that the talks had ramped up with the Braves, Len was the first “source” to bid Dempster farewell. I’d love to know how their next conversation went.
- Just the rumor of the Dempster deal was enough to kickstart the MLB’s trade machine into high gear. The Tigers traded prospects Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly, and Brian Flynn to the Marlins for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez (they also swapped compensatory picks). That would have been the deal of the day, if not for the Yankees afternoon trade for Ichiro Suzuki. New York sent D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar to Seattle, while Ichiro made the short walk to the visitors’ clubhouse (the Yankees are in Seattle this week).
- While the deal for Dempster stalled out, it did help establish a better idea of what they might be asking for Matt Garza, who could also be on the move this week. The primary trade candidate for him seems to be the Dodgers, who will apparently have to part ways with Zach Lee and others to obtain Garza. There’s also some interest in Paul Maholm from his former team, the Pirates. He’s schedule to start against them tomorrow and again next week, and I doubt they’ll let him make both those starts if they really want him back.
- Whatever happens, don’t expect another motionless day from the Cubs. There was a flurry of trade activity on Monday, and I’m sure it frustrated Theo & Jed no end to miss out on it. I can’t see that happening two days in a row.