Samardzija solid before bullpen blows lead

July 3rd, 2016

PHOENIX -- Jeff Samardzija had put together one of his better starts of late, cruising into the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday with a two-run lead when Giants manager Bruce Bochy went to his bullpen.

Usually, this turns out to be a good thing. But not this time, as both Josh Osich and Hunter Strickland left the Giants with a tough-to-swallow 6-5 loss that can only add to the case for the club dealing for front-line, late-inning relief help.

With one on and one out, Bochy called on Osich to face Jake Lamb, a dangerous hitter against right-handers, but a sub-.200 hitter against lefties. Osich, who hadn't pitched in three games, didn't throw any of his four deliveries close to the strike zone in issuing a walk.

Then it was Strickland's turn. He served up a three-run, game-deciding homer to D-backs catcher Welington Castillo on a 2-1 mistake.

"It was a two-seamer; I was trying to get a ground ball," Strickland said. "I was trying to get it in, but I left it over the plate. It didn't move."

Strickland was placed in a situation that lately had been going to Cory Gearrin. But the latter was unavailable Saturday after throwing 30 pitches in the last two nights and pitching in three of the last four games and four of the last six.

"That's usually his role, but you have to give these guys a break once in a while," Bochy said.

So Samardzija was left with a no-decision, but this was an improvement from a month of June in which he allowed 21 earned runs in 27 2/3 innings in five starts.

"He did a great job," Bochy said. "He got into the eighth with a lead, but we couldn't hold it."

Samardzija said the two key differences from his recent outings were getting ahead in counts and an improved slider that he turned to more often against an aggressive D-backs lineup.

"I've been fighting. I thought this was better than before, that's for sure," he said. "It's a long season; you go through a lot of ups and downs, and you fight. This game is all about resiliency and hard work. In between these last couple of starts, I've been working hard -- long toss, throwing lot of balls in the bullpen, trying to get it right."

Samardzija got out of a jam in the fourth inning after a review on Chris Herrmann's double off the center-field wall was reviewed (and confirmed). From that point, the right-hander retired 13 of the last 15 hitters he faced -- often with help from shortstop Brandon Crawford, who totaled eight assists.

"It sounds so Plain Jane, but it's so amazing what he does every day," Samardzija said. "It's an honor to go out there and play with him every day. He plays hard and leaves it all out there, and I respect that a lot."