SAN FRANCISCO -- Jeff Samardzija needed 98 pitches to get through four innings in his last start, but he proved far more efficient -- and effective -- on Saturday.
Samardzija allowed only a solo home run to Corey Dickerson over eight dominant innings to lead the Giants to a 3-1 win over the Phillies at Oracle Park.
Philadelphia managed to produce only two baserunners against Samardzija, who retired 23 of the 25 batters he faced on 103 pitches while striking out five and walking none. After Dickerson’s two-out homer in the first inning, Samardzija retired 20 in a row before giving up a one-out single to Cesar Hernandez in the eighth.
Samardzija subsequently induced a 5-4-3 double play from Scott Kingery to end the inning, walking off the field to a standing ovation from the 39,106 fans at Oracle Park.
“I don’t ever mind not working out of the stretch,” Samardzija said. “It means you’re efficient and out there pounding the zone and keeping the guys off base. [Catcher] Buster [Posey] was on point back there today. I didn’t really have to do much thinking myself. I just kind of let him guide me through it and tried not to make any mistakes on the plate.”
The last time Samardzija allowed two or fewer baserunners while pitching at least eight innings was Sept. 21, 2015, when he threw a one-hit shutout against the Tigers as a member of the White Sox. The 34-year-old veteran has now logged a 1.95 ERA (11 earned runs over 50 2/3 innings) over his last eight starts for the Giants, the sixth-lowest mark in the National League over that span.
Manager Bruce Bochy said Saturday’s performance was one of the best he’s seen from Samardzija, who signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Giants in Dec. 2015.
“It’s right up there at the top,” Bochy said. “What a great job he did in Philly [on July 31]. They just saw him, and he threw another beauty.”
Samardzija tossed six scoreless innings in his previous start against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park and used his cutter to great effect in that outing. 33 of his 90 pitches were cutters, well above his typical usage rate of 20.9 percent this season. Phillies hitters were 2-for-10 against the pitch, with only one hard-hit ball, according to Sports Info Solutions.
Samardizja leaned heavily on his cutter again on Saturday, throwing it 36 times to induce five swinging strikes, three called strikes, eight foul balls and six balls in play.
"He has a fastball-cutter combination; it's difficult to pick up which is which, and he does a really good job of changing eye levels," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said.
Samardzija’s health was a big question mark for the Giants after he missed most of the 2018 season with right shoulder issues. He spent the winter in San Francisco rehabbing his shoulder, working out at Oracle Park three times per week and visiting a rehab facility in San Mateo twice per week.
He's seeing the results of that work now. After making only 10 starts for the Giants last year, Samardzija has not missed a turn in the rotation in 2019, posting a 3.55 ERA over 134 1/3 innings. Along with Madison Bumgarner, Samardzija’s production has helped add some stability to a Giants rotation that is relying heavily on inexperienced starters like Tyler Beede, Shaun Anderson and Menez.
“I had some work to do, with only throwing like 40 innings last year,” Samardzija said. “Just getting back to being a pitcher, being comfortable out there on the mound and not just feeling for it. If you don’t pitch a lot, that kind of tends to happen. For me, it was just about using the spring and early in the season to get going and get that arm strength up. I think we’re there now, and we’re executing all our pitches.”