Shark hopes to patrol the postseason waters

September 29th, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO -- is eager to make at least one more start. However, he has no idea whether his next outing will occur in a languid Cactus League exhibition next March or an intense postseason showdown next week.

Such is the uncertainty regarding the Giants' season, which returned to the doldrums with Wednesday night's 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies. Samardzija struck out a season-high 11, but San Francisco's offense returned to somnolence for the right-hander, who has been backed by two runs or fewer in 10 of his 14 starts since the All-Star break.

Given the Giants' position in the National League Wild Card race -- 1 1/2 games behind the front-running Mets and a game ahead of St. Louis for the second postseason berth -- Samardzija said that he's ready for anything, whether he's called upon in relief to help seal a weekend victory over the Dodgers or if he's selected for a postseason start. Unless he were to pitch on short rest, he will not start another regular-season game.

Samardzija (12-11) is leaving nothing to chance. "I'm probably going to prepare for a tiebreaker game," the right-hander said, referring to a possible Monday contest to determine San Francisco's Wild Card fate.

If that's Samardzija's next assignment, the Giants will be playing behind a pitcher who's on the ascent. He's 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA in his last 10 starts, having allowed only three home runs in that span.

Samardzija attributed his surge to an improved split-finger fastball.

"It was allowing me to pitch up in the zone with my fastball and come back and forth with it," he said.

Added Giants manager Bruce Bochy: "You look at his body of work through August and September, he's been throwing the ball as well as anybody."

Samardzija's postseason experience is limited to a 2008 NL Division Series appearance with the Cubs, but the possibility of pitching meaningful games into October excites him. He feels the anticipation in the air.

"It feels great to be out there pitching when the weather turns a little bit and the season comes to an end," he said. "I always love being able to see the finish line. It allows me to go a little bit harder. I enjoy staring down the tube when it's about to be done and just let it all hang out."

Samardzija's abandon manifested itself in the steady rise of his strikeout total. He accumulated at least one per inning until he was removed two batters into the seventh, when doubled and scored on 's single.