One pitch flips script for Samardzija, Sox
DETROIT -- Stop the White Sox if you've heard this frustrating story before.
For seven innings on Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park, the White Sox played the sort of crisp, efficient baseball that matched the lofty preseason expectations attached to this squad. Jeff Samardzija didn't go above 16 pitches in any of his scoreless frames, and the White Sox did enough damage against David Price to build up a four-run lead.
Then, the eighth inning came in Chicago's eventual 5-4 loss to the Tigers. There have been too many similar frames for a White Sox team that sits 10 games under .500 at 32-42.
Detroit rallied for four in the eighth, and then won the game in walk-off fashion via James McCann's home run off of Zach Putnam on a 0-2 pitch in the ninth. Putnam took the blame for the defeat, but as has been the case for most of this season gone wrong, the outside focus of culpability shifted to manager Robin Ventura.
With the White Sox leading, 4-0, Samardzija allowed a leadoff single to McCann in the eighth, lost a 10-pitch battle in a walk issued to Jose Iglesias, gave up a single to Anthony Gose and then hit Ian Kinsler with a 1-1 pitch to force home the first run. Miguel Cabrera was next in the box, and fans' collective cringes could be heard from Chicago as the game's best hitter took on the right-hander.
But Ventura's decision to stay with Samardzija, despite Jake Petricka and Putnam warming up, paid off via a strikeout on an elevated fastball. The game plan for Ventura was that Samardzija, at 109 pitches, still had enough left.
"You are going hitter by hitter," Ventura said. "Just felt there was a better matchup there with Jeff going in there, especially after the at-bat before with Miggy, I felt like he still had something in the tank. This one didn't work out."
Victor Martinez made sure of that. He launched the next pitch into right-center for a bases-clearing double, putting the spotlight back on Ventura. That outcome didn't make Ventura second-guess his thought process, however.
"You sit there and if you pull him out and somebody gives it up, you kick yourself for that one," Ventura said. "If you leave him in and it goes like that, you kick yourself. You just live with it."
Samardzija is not a rookie hurler whose innings and pitches have to be watched outside of normal concern for a durable starter. He is a pitcher in line for a significant free-agent deal after this season, an accomplished starter who has talked many times about liking to throw, wanting to throw and wanting to throw with the game on the line.
He got that chance on Sunday, but the eighth inning didn't work out nearly as smoothly as the previous seven. The Tigers end up with the victory, Ventura gets the criticism and the story repeats for a last-place White Sox squad.
"I feel fine and I can pitch man. I felt fine out there and it's just about making the pitches," said Samardzija, who fanned four. "Any time you put your heart out there on the line and give everything you got, it doesn't turn out the way you wanted it to, you're definitely bummed."