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A's tag Samardzija for 10 runs, trounce White Sox

Jeff Samardzija walks off the mound after giving up five runs in the first inning Tuesday. Getty Images

Jeff Samardzija was the centerpiece of the White Sox offseason, a veteran top-of-the-rotation starter who was coming home to the team he cheered for as a kid, to help it contend for the postseason.

Samardzija envisioned pitching meaningful games in September, not what he experienced Tuesday night.

Tagged by the 62-83 Oakland A’s for 10 runs, all earned, on 11 hits and three walks, Samardzija walked off the U.S. Cellular pitcher’s mound to boos from a paid crowd of 12,446. It was just the latest in a bad run of outings for Samardzija, whose ERA ballooned to 5.27 at the worst time possible for him – he will become a free agent for the first time when this season comes to a close in less than three weeks.

It’s a season that can’t end soon enough.

“It’s almost like he’s putting so much pressure on himself to get that big deal, that he’s pitching like [he’s out of control],’’ a veteran scout who has long been a big fan of Samardzija’s, said.

The A’s went on to trounce the Sox 17-6 in a game that saw manager Robin Ventura use position players Leury Garcia and Alexei Ramirez as pitchers. Each threw a scoreless inning.

After the A’s scored five in the first, the Sox got two in the bottom half on RBI singles by Jose Abreu and Melky Cabrera (who would hit his 10th homer in the fifth) against Aaron Brooks (7.62 ERA coming in), Samardzija pitched a scoreless second before the wheels came off in the third inning – a lowlight to be sure in this Sox season.

The A’s scored 10 runs in the inning, four of them charged to Samardzija who gave up a home run to Josh Reddick, an RBI double to Billy Butler and a wild pitch. Daniel Webb relieved Samardzija and walked three as the disastrous inning continued.

Third baseman Mike Olt made two errors on one play, allowing two runs to score.

While much was made about a coming home for Samardzija, the former Cub and Merrillville, Ind., native, U.S. Cellular Field has been a den of horrors for him. He is 0-7 with a 10.01 ERA over his last seven starts at home.

And his starts have been pretty bad from the get-go, with a 7.59 ERA in the first inning overall this season. The A’s clubbed him for five runs on two walks and five hits including three doubles in the first inning, hiking his runs allowed total to 31 in the first inning.

Command has been the rub for Samardzija, both in and out of the strike zone. His split-finger hasn’t been the putaway pitch that was key to his arsenal, and he was on pace for 172 strikeouts, which would be his fewest since becoming a full-time starter with the Cubs.

Samardzija did have one good stretch this season, 10 consecutive starts of seven innings or more from June 7 through July 28. After the trade deadline, at which time he was likely expected to be traded to a contender, Samardzija has completed seven innings once in nine starts.

The Sox trailed 17-6 in the seventh inning after Alexei Ramirez connected for his 10th homer of the season.

NOTES: Robin Ventura wasn’t happy with the way the Sox blew a four-run lead in the ninth inning Monday. Asked for his reaction to closer David Robertson’s and catcher Tyler Flowers’ having fun with a postgame side-by-side deadpanning of the events of the ninth – which included a catcher’s interference call on Flowers and the tying run scoring on a passed ball when the batter got their pitch signals crossed – Ventura said, “I’m glad somebody did.’’

Ventura seemed to excuse it.

“They know they messed up and that’s how they got past it,’’ he said.

*Mike Olt continues to get looks at third base, cutting back Tyler Saladino’s playing time. Ventura said Saladino will play shortstop Wednesday or Thursday.