First off thanks to Big Star for alerting us to the epic sampling of journalism from ESPN. I haven’t read anything this complete since Ralph Wiley’s literary opus on Tracy McGrady. Make sure to start by clicking on Big Star’s name and working from there. It is worth the effort.
You’re back? Good. We missed you terribly.
If you had told me that a wide receiver and a drug abuser would be hte two best pitching prospectsin Chicago I would have had you darted. And yet wide receiver, Jeff Samardzija, is the current (albeit de facto) ace for the Cubs and convicted drug abuser, Jose Quintana, has been lights out for the Sox.
Had the Sox kept Santiago they also would have had a pitcher who auditioned for his job by winning bar bets.
Who says there aren’t any colorful characters in baseball any more?
Carrie Muskat was at the game and says that Samardzija pitched good enough to win for any other team not named The Astros or the Cubs.
An eight-game losing streak will make you do crazy things. Just ask Jeff Samardzija, who showed his frustration Wednesday by breaking his bat over his knee.
The Cubs ended their West Coast swing with a 2-0 loss to the Padres, dropping their eighth in a row. The only plus side to their two California trips this season is that the weather was nice. The Cubs went 0-10 combined in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Samardzija (7-10) took the loss, and needed a new bat after striking out to end the seventh.
“It just felt good to snap it like a toothpick,” he said.
“Right now, when you start losing games and a lot of things aren’t going your way, you’re going to see some frustrations come out,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “That’s part of the game. It’s OK to see guys with emotion and fire. Those are guys you want around, too.”
Samardzija did the same thing in Spring Training after he was eliminated in the bunting tournament.
“That was fun,” said Padres catcher John Baker, who had a front row seat to the snap. “That’s not an easy thing to do.”
“That’s not something you want to see,” Sveum said. “He’s a pretty strong guy. He could do it a lot easier than I could.”
In his first full season in the rotation, Samardzija finds himself as the Cubs starter with the most seniority following the trades of Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm and an injury to Matt Garza. Coincidentally, the Cubs have not won since they dealt Dempster on July 31.
“I think our starting pitching has pitched really well and they’ve all filled in pretty admirably for the three guys we’ve lost,” Sveum said. “The bottom line is we’ve just all of a sudden stopped hitting, and we’re not scoring any runs to take leads. It’s not that easy when you’re not getting a lead and putting crooked numbers up early in the game.”
Against the Padres, Samardzija gave up four hits and struck out six over seven innings, and the last inning was the most important.
Chase Headley doubled to open the Padres second and scored one out later on Will Venable’s double down the right-field line, past a diving Anthony Rizzo. Samardzija then faced the minimum over the next four innings.
But the right-hander ended the Cubs seventh by striking out, and snapped his bat in frustration. Yonder Alonso singled to open the Padres seventh and reached third on Headley’s single, which dropped in front of Alfonso Soriano in left. Mark Kotsay hit a grounder to Rizzo, who stepped on first, and then helped get Alonso in a rundown between third and home. Venable walked, but Samardzija regrouped and struck out Logan Forsythe.
“Any time you’re a young guy and your manager lets you pitch around a hit and pitch around a walk, and you see those pitches up in the 100 count, those are times you want to prove to your manager you can pitch and have your stuff,” Samardzija said. “I felt great there with my pitch count what it was. You take more pride when they leave you out there, and you want them to remember that you pitched well for the future.”
It’s all part of the learning process.
“In that situation, it was his game,” Sveum said. “He had pitched a great game. You’re hoping for a double play, and he has a chance for a win. We just couldn’t get anything going.”
Clayton Richard (9-11) struck out five and held the Cubs to five hits in his first complete game of the season. Chicago now has been outscored, 40-16, in the eight losses, and has hit just .169 during the stretch.
“The bottom line is we’re not getting anything going with the bats,” Sveum said.
With the youth movement in full swing, Sveum met with the players this week to remind them to have fun and that they’re going to experience ups and downs. His message: “You have to go out and play like it’s Little League.”
That doesn’t make the losses any easier to take.
“It’s frustrating because our guy’s on the mound, and he’s pitching hard,” Chicago’s Darwin Barney said. “He put himself in a situation where we scratch off one run and we’re looking all right. We scratch off two, and we’re going to win. Unfortunately we didn’t do that. It’s got to be frustrating for him. It’s frustrating for us.”
Thursday will be the Wrigley Field debut for top prospects Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters and Brooks Raley. The final games aren’t just about development.
“Obviously, we’re trying to win every game we play,” Samardzija said. “We have some good teams we’re playing—we have a four-game set here with Cincinnati. A lot of guys will be cutting their teeth against some good teams. ... We know it won’t be easy, but we’re not going to make excuses either. We’ll figure out how to win ballgames.”
I said last night that Samardzija is a #3 pitcher on any contending team and I meant that as a compliment. He has a chance to have a long career now that the Cubs are done playing mumbley peg with his career.
The Sox’ #3 starter is Jose Quintana. He will never be a wide receiver. Nor will he do drugs ever again as far as I can tell. He also took the mound last night, did his job at, or above expected levels and lost anyway. Scott Merkin was at the game and has the whole, sordid, story.
There’s no reason to demean Jeremy Guthrie’s pitching ability in order to emphasize the White Sox lack of offense during their 2-1 loss to the Royals Wednesday night before 25,151 at U.S. Cellular Field.
But the statistical truths are hard to overlook.
Guthrie entered this series finale with a 0-9 record and 7.43 ERA over his last 14 games. There were eight starts on Guthrie’s 2012 ledger where he allowed at least five earned runs or more.
On this night, though, Guthrie (1-3) looked like Justin Verlander to the White Sox (60-50). His eight scoreless innings of five-hit baseball at least had that sort of feel.
“We’ve seen him pitch like that before,” said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski of Guthrie, who earned his first victory since May 31 when he was still pitching for the Rockies. “Obviously, teams know he has it in there. He just hasn’t had it this year until unfortunately against us.”
“You’re not going to talk to anyone who knows baseball that says he doesn’t have good stuff,” said White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn of the Royals’ winning pitcher. “He’s got great stuff. But usually it seems like you’re going to get a pitch or two to hit. Tonight we did, but we didn’t do anything with them. He didn’t make mistakes.”
Even with Guthrie’s dominance, the White Sox still had a chance to pull out a victory against Royals closer Greg Holland—who notched his third save—in the ninth. Dunn launched a 0-2 pitch to right-center for a one-out double, and scored one out later on Pierzynski’s single up the middle to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.
Alexi Ramirez was the White Sox final hope, but his spinning liner was caught by shortstop Alcides Escobar. The second straight victory for Kansas City (47-63) marked the White Sox first home series loss since June 8-10 against Houston. It also ended a four-series winning streak overall following a 3-7 start to the season’s second half.
“Since August started, we’ve been playing pretty good baseball here,” said Royals manager Ned Yost, whose team has won six of its last nine. “We had a horrible July but we’ve rebounded, turned it around, and we’re playing pretty darn good baseball right now.”
“It seemed like we couldn’t get anything going [against Guthrie]. He was sinking and cutting it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Until the ninth, it didn’t seem like we were mounting anything.”
This loss, dropping the White Sox to 13-12 in the second half and 4-5 against the Royals, was played without Paul Konerko, who sustained a mild concussion during Tuesday’s loss, and Alex Rios, who had a stiff back. The White Sox did get Alejandro De Aza back after a two-game absence and Kevin Youkilis returned after a one-game hiatus due to a sore right knee. But the South Siders still couldn’t do much with Guthrie, who entered the contest sporting a 7.71 ERA.
Over the first seven innings, only two White Sox runners reached second base. From the third to the sixth, Guthrie retired nine straight and fanned six overall without issuing a walk.
“Looking at his numbers, you still know what kind of pitcher he is,” Dunn said of Guthrie.
Jose Quintana (4-2) benefited from his eight-day break in between starts, allowing just two runs on five hits over seven-plus innings. He struck out five and walked two before leaving in the eighth after Alex Gordon reached first on a wild pitch off of a swinging third strike.
His only two real mistakes produced the Royals’ two runs. Mike Moustakas went deep with two outs in the second, after Quintana retired the first five Royals hitters, and Salvador Perez took Quintana the opposite way with two outs in the fourth.
“I felt good. The extra days actually helped me out,” said Quintana through translator and White Sox manager of cultural relations Jackson Miranda. “My arm felt good and then I was just out there battling, trying to help the team.
“On the second [homer], I would definitely say I made a mistake in throwing that pitch. But you know how this game goes. That could have been a fly ball so you never know which way it’s going to go.”
Quintana has received two runs or fewer of support in eight starts this season, so the White Sox being shut out while he was on the mound was not a surprise. Maybe the only surprise was that Guthrie did the job, keeping the White Sox one-half game ahead of the Tigers in the American League Central after Detroit’s 12-8 loss to the Yankees, but also one-half game ahead of Wild Card contenders Baltimore and Oakland.
“Yeah this is definitely part of the game,” Quintana said. “It’s one of those that right now I’m not getting much run support but that’ll change, and then we’ll be winning a lot of games and getting a lot of run support.
Pitchers like Quintana and Peavy never seem to get run support. I think I know the reason for that. Both throw arrhythmic games. They go from “hair on fire” to “gentle meditation” between pitches. Guys like them need to be odd. Two fast pitches followed by some contemplation of their belly buttons.
That makes them very disconcerting for opponents. Unfortunately it seems to have the same effect on their team.
Hitters are just going to have to get over it. Maybe have some brain cleansing ritual after each half inning or something. Whatever it takes is what they need to figure out.
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