PITTSBURGH (AP) — On Saturday afternoon, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he was planning on relaxing any pitch count restrictions he had for Jeff Samardzija in that night’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“When it’s your No. 1 guy,” Sveum said, “sometimes you basically just tell him, `It’s your game.'”
Saturday’s game was all Samardzija’s.
The right-hander pitched the Cubs’ first complete game of the season in his final start of the year and Chicago beat the fading Pirates 4-3.
“It was a special night – for him and for the team to win two in a row after what just happened in Washington,” Sveum said. “It was big for him to be that so-called No. 1 guy to step up and give us back-to-back wins for the first time on the road in I don’t know how long.”
The Cubs arrived in Pittsburgh after a four-game sweep at the hands of the Nationals and having lost 17 of their previous 18 road games. The only other time Chicago won consecutive road games since June was July 23-24 in Pittsburgh.
David DeJesus singled in Welington Castillo with two outs in the eighth for the go-ahead run after Pittsburgh had tied the game at 3 in the seventh.
Samardzija (9-13) overcame a rocky first inning to allow two hits over his final 8 2-3 innings. With the 27-year-old in his first full season as a major league starter, the Cubs announced Friday their intention to shut him down for the season.
“That was a heck of a way to go out, no doubt about it,” Sveum said.
Batting in the No. 9 spot in the order, Chicago’s Tony Campana had two hits and scored two runs. Alfonso Soriano hit his 27th home run for
Pedro Alvarez two hits and two RBIs for the Pirates, who have lost six of eight and were passed by Los Angeles for third place in the NL wild card standings.
Samardzija had nine strikeouts, allowing four hits, one walk and two earned runs in his first career complete game. He threw a season-high 120 pitches.
Samardzija completes his season by working 174 2-3 innings – five more than he pitched over the course of his first four seasons in the majors combined.
He was not sharp to start the game, allowing a single to Brock Holt, hitting Andrew McCutchen and walking Garrett Jones before Alvarez’s single drove in Holt and McCutchen.
“I knew as long as I was showing them I was still strong and still throwing strikes, they’d let me go,” Samardzija said. “Obviously, a one-run game, it’s tighter and I couldn’t let anyone get on. I just wanted to make my pitches and I felt good. It went well.”
Samardzija retired eight straight and 19 of 20 until Rod Barajas reached via a throwing error by shortstop Starlin Castro with two outs in the seventh and the Cubs leading 3-2.
Pinch-hitter Jeff Clement followed with a single off the wall in right, scoring pinch-runner Josh Harrison.
Just as he said, Sveum stuck with Samardzija – not only in facing Clement but in letting him hit the following inning with the go-ahead run on second and one out.
Samardzija grounded out, but Campana walked before DeJesus lined a single to right off Jason Grilli (1-5).
Alex Presley’s throw arrived at about the same time as Castillo, but Castillo’s nifty slide eluded Michael McKenry’s tag. Castillo had led off the eighth with a single.
“The guy over there, that’s a special arm,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, referring to Samardzija. “Tonight, we needed to find a way to dig one out of the dirt, and we weren’t able to do that.”
Chicago got a run in the second, third and fifth innings. Soriano led off the second with his 27th homer, the most he’s had since 2008. It was his fourth home run in his past nine games.
Two days after the Cubs were involved in two dugout-clearing incidents against Washington, home plate umpire Scott Berry warned both dugouts after James McDonald hit Anthony Rizzo with a pitch in the third.
The Cubs’ Steve Clevenger learned early Saturday he would be serving a one-game suspension for his role in Thursday’s game.
McDonald allowed three runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings.
“As long as I keep my team in the game, it’s a decent outing for me,” McDonald said.
Notes: According to STATS LLC., it was the seventh time in the majors this season a team hit the pitcher eighth. The Cubs had not batted a pitcher eighth since at least 1974 – the earliest such research is available. … Castro was hit by a pitch in the hand in the ninth inning. He stayed in the game and X-rays taken after the game were negative. … Cubs 2B Darwin Barney played his 124th consecutive errorless game at second base, setting an NL record. Barney’s streak surpassed 1,000 innings Saturday. … Sveum termed OF Brett Jackson “day to day” due to a right knee injury sustained while crashing into the PNC Park outfield fence during Friday’s game. He won’t play until at least Tuesday. … RHP Jason Berken will make his Cubs debut starting the Sept. 15 game against Pittsburgh. Berken was acquired off waivers from Baltimore on Friday. … The Pirates announced their starters for their series in Cincinnati Monday-Wednesday: LHP Wandy Rodriguez, RHP Kevin Correia, RHP A.J. Burnett. … Rookie left-handers start against each other in the series finale Sunday: The Cubs’ Chris Rusin (0-2, 9.00) and Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke (0-1, 4.82).
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