CINCINNATI (AP) — Jeff Samardzija has never pitched this much in his life. It might be catching up to him.
The Cincinnati Reds pegged the Chicago Cubs’ right-hander for eight hits, including two 400-foot home runs, and six runs in 5 2-3 innings en route to a 6-0 win in the finale of a three-game series on Wednesday.
Devin Mesoraco hit his first home run in more than a month and Jack Hannahan added his first career pinch-hit homer as Cincinnati avoided a sweep by the last-place Cubs.
Samardzija, who became a full-time starter last season, already had set career highs in starts and innings entering his 30th start on Wednesday. Manager Dale Sveum thinks the workload might be catching up to him more than just physically.
“He probably won’t admit it, but I think it’s probably a combination of that and he’s mentally worn out, too,” Sveum said.
He was right about Samardzija denying it.
“I feel good,” said the pitcher, threw 114 pitches on Wednesday in 84-degree heat and has 194 2-3 innings under his belt. “I don’t think that has anything to do with it right now.”
Samardzija (8-12) finished with three walks, five strikeouts and a wild pitch.
“I had good stuff out there,” he said. “They just made me work. I threw a lot of pitches in the first few innings. I was getting ahead in the count, but they were fouling a lot of balls off. I felt good.
“I was little erratic with my fastball, but I was in the (strike) zone. I was happy with how I pitched. I just threw a couple of pitches that made it look a little skewed.”
Mesoraco, hitless in his previous 13 at bats, had three to lead the Reds to their seventh win on a 10-game home stand. It included a 3-1 record against St. Louis and three-game sweep of NL West Division-leading Los Angeles.
Cincinnati entered the game in third place in the Central, three games behind the division-leading Cardinals and two behind Pittsburgh.
After winning the first two games of the three-game series, the Cubs were in position for their first sweep of the Reds in Cincinnati since May 2001.
Mike Leake (13-6) threw 107 pitches in 5 2-3 innings en route to a career high in wins, despite humid conditions and an 84-degree temperature at game time.
Leake allowed four hits and four walks with six strikeouts. He joined relievers J.J. Hoover, Alfredo Simon, Manny Parra and Sam LeCure to produce Cincinnati’s 16th shutout of the season, four more than last season.
Chicago has been shut out 13 times, three fewer than last season.
The Reds used small ball in the second for a 2-0 lead. Jay Bruce led off with a single and went to third on Todd Frazier’s softly lined single down the left field line. They scored on RBI groundouts to second by Xavier Paul and Zack Cozart, who went 0-for-4 and ended his career-high hitting streak at 15 games.
Mesoraco added his ninth homer in the fourth, a one-out solo shot off Samardzija that sailed 429 feet into the first row of the second deck in left field. The homer was Mesoraco’s first in 25 games since he hit two against St. Louis on Aug. 3.
The Reds broke it open in the sixth on Hannahan’s 402-foot, three-run homer into the right field seats off of Samardzija, Hannahan’s first since last July 20 for Cleveland against Baltimore.
“I didn’t think he threw the ball that bad until the three-run homer,” Sveum said. “They had a couple of bloopers and the solo homer. Other than the two homers, they didn’t have a lot of hard-hit balls. His pitch count was up early, but he was efficient the last four innings.”
Notes: Reds RHP Johnny Cueto threw 60 pitches to live batters Wednesday in the second simulated game of his comeback from a strained muscle below his right shoulder. Neither Cueto, on the disabled list since June 29, nor manager Dusty Baker knew immediately after the session what his next step will be. Cueto says he feels “good and “ready.” … Baker wasn’t sure whether LHP Tony Cingrani would go with the Reds on their road trip or stay behind for physical therapy. Cingrani left Tuesday’s start in the second inning after aggravating the back problem that sent him to the disabled list from Aug. 25 to Sept. 5. … The Reds are off Thursday. The Cubs continue their longest road trip of the season — 11 games in 11 days — with the first of four games at Pittsburgh. LHP Chris Rusin (2-3) is Chicago’s scheduled starter.
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