MILWAUKEE — The momentary loss of composure and dugout altercation with third base coach David Bell got almost all of the attention when it came to Jeff Samardzija Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
But lost in the sizeable shadow of that moment were a few moments of significance that figure to have a far greater impact on the Cubs going forward.
Samardzija, who is weeks away from renewed talks on a potential multi-year deal, reached important milestones Tuesday that will have a bearing on those talks – and possibly his readiness for a stronger, more consistent season next year.
In his 31st start, Samardzija went deeper into a game (seven innings) than he had since Aug. 24 and struck out eight or more for only the second time in eight starts.
Whether you want to attribute a large part of that to Milwaukee’s young, Braun-less lineup, the larger facts remain that Samardzija now has 200 innings (201 2/3) for the first time in his career – and over 200 strikeouts (203) for another career first.
“It’s how you get there. It’s how you do your work,” he said. “At the end of the year you look back on it and evaluate yourself and everything. Obviously, it’s a goal you set at the beginning of the season.
“The big thing for me is taking that ball every fifth day and being a guy you can count on to throw a lot of pitches and work the other lineup and get deep in the game and save your bullpen. If you’re throwing 200 innings, the majority of the time you’re doing that. I think that’s a big positive, and we can build on it.”
With two more starts, against playoff teams Atlanta and St. Louis, Samardzija has an outside shot at reaching a career high 10 wins (he’s 8-12). He won’t get his 4.42 ERA under 4.00 (18 innings of shutout pitching gets him to 4.06).
But the 200-200 thing is not insignificant.
Last year, only 10 pitchers in the majors accomplished that – only five who spent the entire year in the National League.
The 10-man list included the four pitchers who won the Cy Young Awards the last two years (R.A. Dickey, David Price, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander). And three more on the list won Cy Youngs in the last five years (Cliff Lee in ’08, Zack Greinke in ’09 and Felix Hernandez in ’10).
The three others: Cole Hamels, Yovani Gallardo and James Shields.
Not bad company.
“Last year the reason I was upset for getting shut down was just because I didn’t know – that’s the experience that you want to build from,” Samardzija said. “How do I feel when I have 200 innings? How do I feel when I have 210 innings? And we’re there now. And I feel good.
“You get a lot of innings and teams face you a lot and you need to change up your game plan, too,” he added. “I’m learning that now, as we go, that when you start facing teams three or four times, you’ve got to adjust a little bit, and still attack and keep your game plan.
“But we’re definitely in learning-curve water now with innings, and I look to have two more strong starts at the end of the year.”