LOS ANGELES – He is the one left standing, the one who is supposed to be the key to the eventual turnaround, the one who could be starting Opening Day perhaps as soon as next season.
For now, Jeff Samardzija is the guy who couldn’t pitch out of the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his first start since the clubhouse-shaking, rotation-crushing flurry of trades a few days ago.
He’s the guy who pitched well for four innings despite command of his good split-finger pitch, then watched a tie game go up in the smoke of nine bases worth of hits by the final nine batters he faced in a 6-1 loss.
It left the Cubs winless in three games against Pittsburgh and L.A. since Tuesday’s trade deadline, with 0-for-a-year Chris Volstad pitching Saturday against reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
“I think we need to get our feet back under us,” Samardzija said. “That’s a whirlwind of a few days there with all that stuff that’s going on, and then you lose a couple team leaders and a couple veteran guys like Paulie [Maholm] and Demp [Ryan Dempster].
“But not to make excuses we still need to come out and play every day and play the way we can play, and speaking only for myself, you’ve got to get that ball down in the zone and get some clutch outs when you need them and keep the team in the game.”
This was Samardzija’s first loss in nearly a month. He responded to an ugly, winless June with a 2-1, 1.91 July – then responded to his newly ascended spot in the rotation with a dud in a pitcher’s park in pitchers’ conditions.
“I expect a lot of myself regardless,” he said. “Obviously, with those guys gone, every start that I make is important and I need to pitch deep into games and be efficient and really give our bullpen a rest when I get the chance.
“You can sit and make all the excuses you want, but those guys aren’t coming back, and you’ve got to work your way around it and figure out what you need to do to make it work.”
The Cubs have 58 games left, whether they figure out anything or not. A two-month stretch that’s been reduced even more to evaluations and a weeding-out process than the first 104 games.
“I’m not here to make excuses,” Samardzija (7-9). “That’s the way the business goes and we need to find out what we can do now with the guys we have here to win ballgames. We’re going to do that for sure. We’ve fought all year and fought through some different things, and we’re not going to stop doing that.”