By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The path for the Cubs to defeat former teammate and Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija in Game 2 of the National League Divisional Series on Saturday is directly related to mentality and conditions.
It’s a topic that’s also on the mind of Samardzija, who played for the Cubs from 2008-’14.
“The first thing you do is check the flags,” Samardzija of the ever changing winds at Wrigley Field.
A flyball pitcher like Samardzija,knows the sudden impact of weather on an outing in the early spring or early fall in Chicago. The ballpark is likely to play big and as a pitcher’s park Saturday night, like it did Friday as the Cubs won the opener 1-0.
The mentality part of the equation is important for Samardzija, an intense competitor who can be his own worst enemy when he overthrows on his fastball and cutter. When he’s good, Samardzija is subtracting on his hard stuff and effectively using his split-finger pitch to change the hitters’ eye level.
“He gets in trouble on his wind up,” an AL scout assigned to the Cubs-Giants series said. “When he spins in his wind-up, he often loses his release point. This does not result in walks but usually balls elevated in the zone. The end result of this flaw is more hard contact on his pitches that come in high and flat.”
In his lone start against the Cubs this season, in early September, Samardzija had a 47-pitch first inning that led to an early exit for him after throwing four innings and allowing three runs.
“We need to just grind at bats against him,” Cubs catcher David Ross said. “He had a bad inning the last time we saw him. The guys made him pay for it. That has been our way all year. We will try our same plan and approach. Jeff is a really good pitcher. We know what a competitor he is from his football days into his Cub career and forward. He has tremendous heart when he is on the mound. We have our work cut out for us.”
Samardzija admits it’s a fun challenge to be pitching in the postseason at Wrigley.
“It will be fun,” he said. “To tell you the truth, there are only four or five guys I played with over on the other side. They have had a lot of turnover there since I played here.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.