Cubs' Samardzija comes back strong from break

Jack Etkin, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DENVER == Jeff Samardzija said it "was not ideal" to be throwing bullpen sessions during the All-Star break. But coming off a horrible start, the Chicago Cubs right-hander twice went to Wrigley Field and worked with pitching coach Chris Bosio.
The work paid off Friday night as the Cubs beat the Colorado Rockies 3-1 at Coors Field when Samardzija muffled the Rockies for 7 1/3 innings before Pedro Strop snuffed out a rally in the eighth.
Alfonsio Soriano homered in the fourth and the Cubs scored their final two runs on doubles by Anthony Rizzo in the seventh and Darwin Barney in the ninth.
Center fielder Junior Lake went 3-for-4 with a double for the Cubs in his major league debut.
Samardzija gave up a career-high tying nine runs on nine hits and two walks in a season-low 4 2/3 innings on July 10 against the Los Angeles Angels. It was Samardzija's second straight loss and second straight poor start, prompting the work with Bosio.
"We changed a couple things with my mechanics; it kept me on line a little more," said Samardzija, who gave up four hits and three walks with six strikeouts and had a devastating split-fingered pitch.
"If you would have asked me all year about how I felt about my mechanics, I'd say they were off all year, to tell you the truth, until today. So I'm really excited to stop making adjustments and really just work on pitch selection and pitch location."
Samardzija gave up a homer to Dexter Fowler in the fourth. He got through the sixth on 68 pitches and then struck out Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer in the seventh, all on split-fingered pitches.
Samardzija said the key to his success with the pitch was being able to command his fastball to both sides of the plate early in the game.
He issued two of his three walks in the seventh and gave way tO Strop, who began his career as a shortstop in the Rockies' organization. Strop made his eighth scoreless appearance for the Cubs after being acquired from Baltimore in a four-player deal on July 2.
With runners on first and second, Strop got pinch-hitter Jordan Pacheco to fly out and struck out Fowler.
"This day's a whole lot different if that doesn't happen," Samardzija said.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum initially had Lake, who was recalled Friday from Triple-A Iowa, batting leadoff but moved him to sixth when Lake said he was going to swing at the first pitch.
Indeed, Lake did just that and doubled on his first at-bat in the second. He singled on each of his final two at-bats and crashed into the wall in right center while chasing Fowler's home run.
Sveum, who is in his second season as the Cubs' manager said, "Since I've been here, that's the first kid that's come up and really looked like a major leaguer. Was aggressive on the bases. Swung the bat really nice. Those are the kind of players you talk about -- hopefully they hit, the athletes, who can score from first base, steal bases, be energetic all the time. Bring life to the team sometimes. That's the kind of guy we're hoping we get."
After Fowler's homer, the Rockies had a chance to take the lead when singles by Tulowitzki and Cuddyer put runners on first and third with two out. Samardzija threw a pitch that skipped past catcher Wellington Castro, but the ball ricocheted to him, and he nailed Tulowitzki at the plate with a perfect throw to Samardzija.
"That's one of those things you don't write up," he said. "It's just a freak play, and it just worked out in our favor. So it was nice."
Edgmer Escalona took over for Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa in the seventh and issued a costly two-out walk to Cody Ransom. Rizzo then lashed a run-scoring double toward the right field corner but was out trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
Colorado reliever Rex Brothers issued a one-out walk in the ninth to Cole Gillespie and Barney followed with his run-scoring double
The Rockies' last-ditch bid in the ninth fell short. It began with a leadoff double by D.J. LeMahieu against closer Kevin Gregg. LeMahieu moved to third on Gonzalez's grounder that shortstop Starlin Castro fielded well to the right of second base.
Gregg walked Tulowitzki, prompting a visit to the mound by Bosio. And on Gregg's next pitch, Cuddyer grounded into a double play to give Gregg his 18th save.
The Cubs (43-51) have won seven of their past 10 games and 14 of their past 23. Meanwhile, the Rockies (46-51), who were held to seven runs while splitting a four-game series at Los Angeles leading into the All-Star break, have lost nine of their past 14 games.
"The fact that our starting pitching has stepped it up and performed very well, especially lately, that's a good sign," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "I think our offense will get rolling."
NOTES: The Cubs recalled Lake from Triple-A Iowa and placed OF Brian Bogusevic on the 15-day disabled list after he aggravated his left hamstring strain in the final game of the first half July 14. Lake, 23, made his major league debut and started in center field. He batted .295 at Iowa with four home runs, 10 doubles, two triples, 18 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 40 games. ... Soriano's home run was the 389th of his career, tying him for No. 57 all time with Hall of Famer Johnny Bench. ... Cubs RHP Matt Garza did his regular between-starts regimen, but he is expected to be traded before his next scheduled start for the Cubs on Monday at Arizona. ... Tulowitzki went 0-for-10 in before the All-Star Game after returning from a 25-game absence caused by a right rib fracture but singled on each of his first two at-bats...Rockies LHP Drew Pomeranz worked out but left the clubhouse before batting practice began. He is on the Double-A Tulsa roster after being optioned there to make one start during the All-Star break and won't be activated by the Rockies until he starts Monday against Miami.

What to Read Next