To aptly describe the damage the Chicago Cubs did in their first-ever meeting against former ace Jeff Samardzija, the Associated Press may have to consider reinstating many of its banned home run terms.
During Friday’s Cactus League tilt at Sloan Park in Mesa, four different Cubs launched home runs against Samardzija, beginning with Jorge Soler’s titanic two-run shot to the left-field berm in the first inning.
Talk about a rude welcome and powerful reminder of the future Samardzija won’t be part of on the north side.
But that was only the beginning. Starlin Castro added a solo home run in the fourth, and then Chris Coghlan and Anthony Rizzo went back-to-back against Samardzija in the fifth inning to punctuate the home run binge and help pace a Cubs 6-3 victory. Obviously, these aren’t the results Samardzija envisioned having against his former team. Especially considering the circumstances of his exit. The Cubs shipped Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland A’s last July when it became clear the two sides couldn’t work out a contract extension. The Cubs received players in the deal, including shortstop Addison Russell, who’s a consensus top five prospect. And then spent much of the money Samardzija was looking for to lure back Hammel and sign Jon Lester during the offseason.
The deal couldn’t have worked out any better for the Cubs. For Samardzija, another trade followed, this time to the south side of Chicago. But he still doesn’t have that extension.
According to Samardzija, none of that was on his mind on Friday, but human nature would suggest otherwise.
“It was fun to pitch against them, but a little weird for sure,” Samardzija said. “Yeah, it felt good out there. As the game went on, I felt a lot better than the first inning. I have to keep the ball down in the zone. When the ball is flying out of the park, a lot of times that’s what it is. When you’re swinging that hard and it’s up in the zone, they’re going to get it.”
It wasn’t all bad though for Samardzija. He added nine strikeouts in his five innings, so he obviously had some pitches working. He also noted that such performances could be a sign of things to come for the Cubs offense is built for such performance, which could become a source of frustration.
That comment agitated a few Cubs fans on social media, but chances are they will have several games just like it in 2015. That goes with the territory of having a young roster filled with developing power hitters. There will be growing pains along the way and some all-or-nothing plate appearances, but once they start putting it together, it will force every pitcher they face to be much sharper than Samardzija was on Friday.
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