For the past few weeks before last night’s 5-0 win against the Tampa Bay Rays, San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija had not looked like himself. Yesterday, though, Samardzija returned with a vengeance, pitching his first full game of San Francisco’s 2016 season while holding the Rays to four hits and one run (a homer by Rays shortstop Brad Miller). The official site of the San Francisco Giants reports that Samardzija’s breakout night was due to Jeff rediscovering an aggressive pitching tactic he had fallen out of touch with since he started against the San Diego Padres in late May.
“He was more like himself,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy after the campaign.
“He attacked the strike zone. He threw a lot of pitches. I thought he mixed it up better. Just a really nice job by him.”
“Attacked” is certainly an accurate descriptor of what San Francisco’s fans saw in Samardzija’s performance. He only threw 115 pitches in the entire game (that’s only about 13 per inning), and an astoundingly efficient 74 of them (65 percent) were strikes. He did not allow a run to be scored against San Francisco until the rays were down to their last strike with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. In short, Samardzija completely and utterly dominated the opposition.
The Giants ace said himself that he felt pretty good rediscovering his aggressive form, something that he freely admits he was missing during his past few starts for San Francisco.
“Starts like the last couple I’ve had leave a sour taste in your mouth, and I’m a competitor and I don’t like that. I just wanted to go out and pitch deep into a game,” said Samardzija, who has for most of the 2016 season been one of the most reliable members of San Francisco’s dynamite pitching rotation but had gone 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in his three previous starts.
“I thought [my command] was pretty good. I thought it got better as the game went on. … I was just trying to get back to where I usually am,” Samardzija continued.
The Rays’ skipper, Kevin Cash, was actually at a loss for words after the thrashing they experienced at the collective hands of the San Francisco Giants, pointing out that Samardzija’s wicked cutter had been especially guilty of mowing down his team in front of the Tampa crowd.
“Not a ton to talk about tonight,” Cash said.
“We just got beat. The guy on their mound was really good. We just really couldn’t find a way to get guys on base.
Of course, Jeff Samardzija was not the sole reason for the Giants’ successful outing; he may have been MVP, but several San Francisco bats were hugely impactful, too.
One of those offensive heroes was Brandon Crawford, who put San Francisco on the scoreboard by doubling in both Brandon Belt and Buster Posey with two outs in the top of the first inning. From that point on, the game belonged to the Giants.
“When it’s time to get a big hit, he has a good idea of what he’s doing, what he’s looking. He shortens up and makes sure he puts in play. He’s got a history of getting big hits for us.”
It would turn out San Francisco would not even need any more insurance runs, but they got some anyway when Gregor Blanco singled in two more runs with the bases loaded in the fourth.
And just to add insult to injury, Brandon Belt hit a monster solo shot (in excess of 400 ft) to right field in the seventh. Ouch.
Last night was another one of the glorious team efforts the San Francisco Giants have been so good at this season, and it was a solid reminder why they are crushing the competition in the National League’s Western Division at the moment.
The dominant Giants win wasn’t the only reason the San Francisco squad had to be happy, either. It was “Pride Night” at the stadium, a night dedicated to the victims of the recent Orlando nightclub shooting, and it was probably because of that that Tropicana field was housing more attendees than it had in over a decade.
Bochy said he and the rest of the Giants were touched by how willingly stadium-goers came together and paid their respects.
“[A large crowd is] pretty normal for us. I’m sure it was nice, really, for the Rays. For what they came here for, what they acknowledged before the game, it was a really nice evening. It was just a tragedy what happened and to see how people came together and united and poured out their hearts for what happened in Orlando, it really made it a special night.”
Hopefully the San Francisco Giants can keep up the insanely high win clip they currently have going. Their next chance to do so will be this afternoon in Tampa at 1:10 PST.
[Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images]