Cubs Grab First Win As Jeff Samardzija Dazzles In First Start Of 2012

By Randy Holt

It appears that Jeff Samardzija is still just as serious about that rotation spot as he was in spring training.

After most of us scoffed at the idea of Shark joining the Chicago Cubs‘ rotation out of spring camp, Samardzija was excellent all throughout the spring, locking down the third spot in the rotation.

On Sunday, in the series finale against the Washington Nationals, he continued to back up that talk. Samardzija went 8 2/3 innings, falling just what was really a Starlin Castro error of going to the distance.

Samardzija was on his game on Sunday. He had everything going, was mixing pitches effectively, and had his fastball going in the mid-90s, still touching 98 in his last inning of work. He surrendered just four hits, only one of his three runs was earned, and he struck out eight. If he’s even close to that, Samardzija is going to be a very big part of this rotation.

With two outs in the ninth, Castro had an opportunity to end the game with a ground ball that should have been a routine play, but he botched the throw. With a runner on, Adam LaRoche hit another two-run homer, to narrow the gap to 4-3.

That left Carlos Marmol to get the last out of the game, which went much better than it had in the previous two contests. After walking the first hitter he faced, Marmol got Xavier Nady to pop up into foul territory to give the Cubs their first win of the season.

Though Castro was hit with that error in the ninth, he had another strong game at the plate, and on the basebaths. He notched a pair of hits, going 2-for-4, and swiped two more bases. He’s on pace to easily eclipse the 22 he stole last year.

Bryan LaHair also had a strong game at the plate, with a pair of doubles. We’ll have to see if this is something we’ll come to see from him regularly.

But obviously the big story of the day was Samardzija. He’s set the bar pretty high moving forward, and while no one expects every start to be that way, it’d be nice if he could continue to force Dale Sveum to keep him in and avoid the bullpen as much as possible.

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