San Francisco Giants: Samardzija Keeps Tremendous Pace and Earns Win

Jun 5, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) reacts after giving up an infield hit in the seventh inning during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 5, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) reacts after giving up an infield hit in the seventh inning during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Jeff Samardzija continues to dominate for the San Francisco Giants, keeping up a tremendous pace of outstanding command to earn a win.

On April 6th, 2016, Jeff Samardzija toed the rubber at Miller Park to face the Milwaukee Brewers in his San Francisco Giants’ debut. Over 5.1 innings that day, Samardzija allowed three runs and was not a factor in final decisions. He returned to the site on Monday to open a four-game series with Milwaukee, and he put together one of his best outings as a Giant.

Miller Park had never been very kind to Samardzija, who owned an 0-3 record with a 6.15 ERA, 1.478 WHIP, and eight home runs allowed in 45.1 innings over 14 games (seven starts). In the first inning of Monday’s outing, it seemed like this one was heading in that direction as well. The first batter he faced, Eric Sogard, roped a double into right field, and Danny Santana followed with a single to put runners on the corners.

Samardzija forced Eric Thames to pop out harmlessly to left field, but Hernan Perez lofted a ball deep enough to score Sogard. Left fielder Orlando Calixte airmailed his throw home and out of play behind home plate, allowing the second run to score and giving the Brewers a 2-0 lead on a simple sacrifice fly.

From there, Samardzija took over. Starting with Thames’ out, the burly right-hander went on a tear by retiring 19 batters in a row, including striking out eight. The Brewers wouldn’t threaten again until the seventh inning, when Perez struck again. He laced a double through the left-center field gap, and Manny Pina moved him over to third with a single through the hole.

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Samardzija was unfazed. He stuck to his guns, throwing hard fastballs through Nick Franklin and Jonathan Villar‘s bats before getting them to flail harmlessly at 90-mile-per-hour sliders away from the zone. Samardzija escaped the jam and pumped his fists as he walked to the dugout.

Those two punchouts gave Samardzija 10 on the night, marking his second double-digit strikeout performance of the season and third of his Giants’ tenure. He also didn’t walk anyone, continuing a remarkable stretch of absolute command. Samardzija didn’t allow a free pass for the sixth time in his last seven starts. In his first 37 starts with the Giants, he had eight zero-walk performances. Also over his last seven starts, he has struck out 59 batters in 48.1 innings, good for an astounding 59-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

On the season, Samardzija has struck out 94 batters while walking just 11, giving him the best strikeouts per walk rate in the National League (8.55), just ahead of Clayton Kershaw (8.36). He’s second in the NL in strikeouts, and has the third-lowest walks per nine innings rate (1.24). He owes his success to a change in his delivery that keeps him more in balance over the pitching rubber, and allow his electric stuff to move as it does.

Though he’s been going through this incredible stretch, it hasn’t led to wins for his team. He entered Monday’s game with the third-lowest run support in baseball, and for a while, it felt like two runs would be too much for the Giants’ meager offense to overcome. With Samardzija settled in and dealing, the offense started to chip away.

Joe Panik ended Junior Guerra‘s shutout in the fourth inning when he snuck a single through the hole, and a bobble in the outfield allowed Buster Posey to score from second. The next inning, Eduardo Nunez put the game back at square one with a booming home run he sent into the second deck in left field. Nunez’s fourth home run came the day after his third, giving him home runs on back-to-back days for the first time in his big league career.

The tie lasted until the eighth inning, when the Giants forced the issue against Rob Scahill. Milwaukee decided to walk Panik to load the bases, bringing up pinch-hitter and former Brewer Aaron Hill. It was Hill that become the latest unlikely hero for the Giants. He roped a two-run double down the left field line to give the Giants a 4-2 lead.

Now given the lead for the first time in a long time, Samardzija returned to the mound for the eighth inning. He erased a leadoff single with a groundball double play, but a two-out basehit drove him from the game. Hunter Strickland kept the inherited runner from scoring, and allowed Samardzija’s final line to look like this: 7.2 innings, 6 hits, 10 strikeouts (3 looking), 0 walks, 2 runs (1 earned).

Next: Blach Shines in First Shutout

Samardzija was rewarded for his stellar outing with only his second win of the season, though he has pitched much better than a 2-7 record would suggest. He continues to be an inning-eating machine for the Giants, and his results have made him one of the most reliable pitchers on the staff.