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Blasts from the past: Homers sink Shark

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Samardzija has put the immediate past behind him with an excellent performance this season. On Saturday night, however, the reverberation of the St. Louis Cardinals' bats created echoes of last year for Samardzija, who allowed four home runs in the Giants' 7-4 loss.

When Samardzija signed his five-year, $90 million contract last December, skeptics cited the 29 homers he allowed in 2015 with the White Sox, which tied him with four other starters for the American League's highest total. To Samardzija's credit, he reshaped those numbers into ancient history by allowing five home runs in 76 innings entering Saturday.

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ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Samardzija has put the immediate past behind him with an excellent performance this season. On Saturday night, however, the reverberation of the St. Louis Cardinals' bats created echoes of last year for Samardzija, who allowed four home runs in the Giants' 7-4 loss.

When Samardzija signed his five-year, $90 million contract last December, skeptics cited the 29 homers he allowed in 2015 with the White Sox, which tied him with four other starters for the American League's highest total. To Samardzija's credit, he reshaped those numbers into ancient history by allowing five home runs in 76 innings entering Saturday.

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Unfortunately for Samardzija and the Giants, he endured a brief but crucial regression in the fifth and sixth innings, when he surrendered the quartet of homers in a nine-batter stretch. With the Giants leading, 4-0, Brandon Moss went deep to open the fifth. Aledmys Diaz belted a three-run homer two outs later. Then Stephen Piscotty and Matt Adams hit back-to-back drives in the sixth, finishing Samardzija and thrilling a giddy Busch Stadium audience of 45,453.

Samardzija's four homers allowed equaled a personal worst, which he also endured on July 10, 2013, against the Los Angeles Angels. Also, the 4-0 edge he squandered matched the Giants' largest blown lead of the season.

"I pitch to contact; I pitch in the [strike] zone," Samardzija said. "I want my defense to work. But [when] you get a four-run lead, you gotta make that stick. That hurts."

Lacking stuff wasn't the issue for Samardzija. The velocity on the first three home run pitches he threw were 95, 96 and 95 mph, respectively. Adams hit an 86-mph split-finger fastball.

Samardzija probably ran afoul of the Cardinals' pure aggressiveness. Diaz, whose three-run homer off the left-field foul pole that tied the score, swung on a 3-0 delivery, a pitch that many batters would have taken automatically.

Samardzija (7-4) said that he wasn't surprised Diaz swung.

"He was looking for a pitch to hit, especially with two runners on base there," Samardzija said. "I had been feeling pretty good, so he took his chances and he got them. ... You're trying to get back in the zone and get back in the count and he hit a homer."

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny endorsed Diaz's somewhat chancy hack.

"The way to look at that is, you have a guy up there who is dealing," said Matheny. "He's throwing 98 and he's throwing 94 sinkers and cutters. You're not going to get a lot of pitches to do something with. You get into an advantage count, it might be the only pitch you have to deal with."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Francisco Giants, Jeff Samardzija