Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija dominant before things fall apart
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com April 7, 2013 9:45PM
The facts: 1:20 p.m., Ch. 9,
The pitchers: Marco Estrada
(0-0, 7.20 ERA) vs. Edwin
Jackson (0-1, 3.60).
THE REST OF THE SERIES
Tuesday: 7:05 p.m., Ch. 9,
720-AM. Wily Peralta (0-1, 6.75) vs. Travis Wood (1-0, 0.00).
Wednesday: 7:05 p.m., CSN+,
720-AM. Kyle Lohse (0-0, 1.50) vs. Scott Feldman (0-1, 7.71).
ATLANTA — It’s hard to remember the last time a Cubs pitcher looked so dominant nearly five innings into a start.
And then right-hander Jeff Samardzija gave up a double, walked the pitcher and uncorked two wild pitches before getting the final out of the fifth.
Things went downhill from there, as the Cubs got swept out of Atlanta and stumbled home for their Wrigley Field opener on the heels of a 5-1 loss Sunday to the Braves at Turner Field.
Samardzija, who became the first Cubs pitcher to strike out 13 batters in less than six innings, lost it in the sixth when he
appeared to hit Chris Johnson with a pitch with two outs.
Samardzija stormed to the plate to argue Johnson hadn’t been hit, with manager Dale Sveum emerging from the dugout to throw in the possibility that Johnson might have swung at the pitch.
Umpire Alfonso Marquez said the pitch hit Johnson on the hand.
When Ramiro Peña followed with a two-run single to give the Braves a 3-1 lead, it didn’t matter anymore. Samardzija, who had pitched brilliantly in the season opener last Monday in Pittsburgh, was done and so were the Cubs, who might as well have gone home early the way they hit during their season-opening 2-4 trip.
Samardzija took the blame for not finishing well.
‘‘Strikeouts or no strikeouts . . . I didn’t do my job,’’ he said.
But Cubs starting pitchers produced a 2.75 ERA on the trip, despite right-hander Scott Feldman’s clunker Friday. The lineup averaged barely two runs, though.
‘‘Fact of the matter is, we’re going to have to hit to take a little pressure off our starting pitchers, who have been pitching their hearts out so far,’’ Sveum said.
Samardzija suggested a home-stand that features the Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers should help the Cubs bounce back.
‘‘I think everyone’s excited,’’ he said. ‘‘To come from Arizona to start on the road, I think everyone’s got a little chip on their shoulder to get home and get in an atmosphere that’s comfortable and really get this season going.’’
NOTES: Right-hander Matt Garza threw a second bullpen session Sunday in his continuing effort to build himself back up
after a strained lat wiped out most of his spring. He might need only two more sessions before heading out on a minor-league rehab assignment.
‘‘Everything feels good, feels great,’’ said Garza, who hasn’t started throwing breaking balls again yet. ‘‘I’ve just got to pick up the number of pitches, and that will come with time.’’
◆ Second baseman Darwin Barney, who suffered a deep gash in his left knee nine days ago, took batting practice during the weekend, and manager Dale Sveum said he might be ‘‘five days, I’m guessing’’ from starting a brief minor-league rehab stint.
◆ Third baseman Ian Stewart (strained quad) was scheduled to play the field in an extended-spring game Monday for the first time since suffering his injury Feb. 21. He might return from the disabled list in two to three weeks, Sveum said.