SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants used 15 of their 16 pitchers in their four-game opening series against the Dodgers over the weekend. The exception was right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who was tapped to start the club’s home opener at Oracle Park on Tuesday night.
The Giants felt Samardzija would be a better matchup for the Padres, whose lineup skews right-handed, but the 35-year-old veteran was burned by the long ball in his season debut, yielding five runs over four innings in San Francisco’s 5-3 loss.
“They put me in a good position to match up against a team that I usually have a lot of success against,” said Samardizja, who entered Tuesday with a 3.58 career ERA against San Diego. “We just didn't have the results we were looking for. We’ll get back to the drawing board. These things happen. It was a different type of day out there, but we’ll learn from it and move on.”
Samardzija retired the first six batters he faced before surrendering a three-run home run to Fernando Tatis Jr. in the third. Tatis took a down-and-in slider and surprisingly drove it out to right field, giving the Padres a 3-1 lead. The blast seemed to be another indication that the ball might be carrying differently at Oracle Park now that the archways beneath the arcade are boarded up this season.
“We definitely saw a couple in the exhibition game [against the A’s] that carried a little bit more,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “That ball seemed to not really ever come down. There definitely have been a few that have carried out there a little bit differently than most years. But it’s a small sample size. We’ll see how it continues to play.”
The deficit grew in the fourth, when Samardzija gave up a two-run shot to Wil Myers, who launched a first-pitch fastball into the Giants’ new bullpens in center field. Myers now has nine homers at Oracle Park since 2017, the third-most among right-handed hitters in the Majors. The new center-field wall stands 391 feet from home plate, down from 399 feet in the past, but Samardzija said Myers’ home run would have been out regardless of the altered outfield dimensions.
“I think Wil’s was gone in a hurricane, so let’s just give him the credit on that one,” Samardzija said. “He crushed that ball.”
Samardzija departed after allowing four hits with one walk and one strikeout. He threw 75 pitches and induced only three swinging strikes. Samardzija averaged 89.3 mph on his four-seam fastball and 90.3 mph on his sinker, down from 91.6 and 92.2, respectively, in 2019.
“I thought he actually had a pretty good fastball, especially relative to our modified camp,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “That wasn’t a concern for tonight. The velocity was better than it has been.”
Samardzija, who missed most of the 2018 campaign with a right shoulder injury, emerged as one of the Giants’ most dependable starters last season, logging a 3.52 ERA over 181 1/3 innings.
The Giants were counting on Johnny Cueto and Samardzija to lead their pitching staff this year and help fill the top-of-the-rotation void left by longtime ace Madison Bumgarner, who signed with the D-backs as a free agent this offseason. But Samardzija, who is entering the final season of the five-year, $90 million deal he signed with the Giants in December 2015, appears to still be rounding into form.
“I thought he came out and did a nice job to get the game going, attacked the zone and was really efficient,” Kapler said. “And then I just don’t think he was able to maintain a rhythm throughout the game. Those are my main impressions.”