CHICAGO -- Jeff Samardzija has pitched in 105 regular-season games at Wrigley Field, most of them for the Cubs. He has been magnificent at times and occasionally has struggled. That experience taught Samardzija a few lessons about pitching in the windy Friendly Confines -- one that stands out more than
CHICAGO -- Jeff Samardzija has pitched in 105 regular-season games at Wrigley Field, most of them for the Cubs. He has been magnificent at times and occasionally has struggled. That experience taught Samardzija a few lessons about pitching in the windy Friendly Confines -- one that stands out more than the rest.
"Look at the flags," Samardzija said. "It's really the only thing that matters."
Samardzija, a familiar face around Wrigley Field, will start the second game of the National League Division Series for the Giants, taking on regular-season ERA leader Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs on Saturday night (8 ET/5 PT, MLB Network).
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"It's his turn. He's earned this," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's pitched here before. He knows Wrigley."
As expected, Bochy also announced left-hander Madison Bumgarner will line up against Jake Arrieta in Game 3 on Monday at AT&T Park. If necessary, lefty Matt Moore will take the ball in Game 4 on Tuesday in San Francisco. Samardzija will be available out of the bullpen after starting Game 2.
First, he'll be tasked with evening the series. The Cubs won Game 1, 1-0, in a classic pitchers' duel between Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto. Now, the Giants must hope for a split before taking the series to San Francisco.
"Now that it is what it is, we're going to look at Game 2 and try to find a way to win Game 2," infielder Kelby Tomlinson said. "That's our focus. We didn't come in looking for a split."
Drafted by the Cubs in 2006, Samardzija pitched on the North Side from 2008 until he was traded along with Jason Hammel in July 2014. That move yielded shortstop Addison Russell and opened up a spot in the Cubs rotation for none other than Hendricks.
Samardzija went 31-42 with a 3.97 ERA in 206 games, including 83 starts, for the Cubs. He signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the Giants to bolster their rotation alongside Johnny Cueto, their Game 1 starter.
After a strong start followed by a mediocre period from late May to early August, he was excellent down the stretch, posting a 2.45 ERA over his last 10 starts. That late-season push included an odd outing at Wrigley Field on Sept. 1, when he battled through a long first inning and permitted three runs in a 5-4 loss. He owns a 3.88 ERA in 105 career appearances at his former home ballpark.
Samardzija's postseason experience consists solely of one relief inning in the NLDS against the Dodgers in 2008, his rookie season. This will be the 31-year-old right-hander's first postseason start, and it seems fitting that it will be at Wrigley Field.
"Obviously everything's a little different when you pitched in one place for so long and then have you to go do it on the other side," Samardzija said. "But [I'm] really not worried about that too much. I'm just excited that I'm getting an opportunity to pitch in a playoff game."
Surprisingly few teammates from those days remain -- Anthony Rizzo, Travis Wood and Arrieta headline the handful of holdover Cubs -- but they surely haven't forgotten Samardzija at the Friendly Confines.
"I think it makes for nice headlines, but outside of Riz and T-Wood, and a couple other guys, it's essentially a new team," Samardzija said. "It doesn't matter who you're playing. The team is going to be a great starting lineup and a great bullpen and great pitchers, so you got to minimize your mistakes and give your team a chance to win the ballgame."
Rizzo simplified the matter even further Thursday when asked about facing a former friend.
"It's business," Rizzo said.
Adam Berry has covered baseball for MLB.com since 2011.