SAN FRANCISCO – You should not aspire to be a 20-game winner when you find yourself in the Chicago Cubs’ rotation these days. The Cubs are celebrating 100 championship-free years at Wrigley Field with all the appropriate wretchedness.
But one little win would be nice. Especially when you’re leading the major leagues on Memorial Day with a 1.46 ERA.
Jeff Samardzija’s wandering search finally ended at AT&T Park on Monday, and improbably, as he faced the team with baseball’s best record. The Giants pitched and played so sloppily in their 8-4 loss that even the Cubs weren’t creative enough to top it.
Samardzija (1-4) won for the first time since August 24 of last year. He owned a 2.99 ERA over his 16-start streak without a victory, and entering Monday, his 1.46 ERA was the lowest in baseball history of any winless pitcher through 10 starts.
Pablo Sandoval stayed hot with a two-run home run and an RBI single, extending his streak to six consecutive games in which he knocked in a run. But Yusmeiro Petit fell apart in the fifth inning, David Huff struggled in relief and even shortstop Brandon Crawford made an error as the Giants had their four-game winning streak snapped.
It might have been a different game if Samardzija hadn’t helped his own cause, which deserved all the tax benefits of a non-profit. The pitcher extended the fifth inning and drove in the tying run with a two-out double, then scored the go-ahead run on Emilio Bonifacio’s triple.
Starting pitching report
Yusmeiro Petit was on the verge of a clean start, having faced the minimum over the first four innings and yielding just a solo home run to Nate Schierholtz.
It was Schierholtz’s first home run of the season, and it should be no surprise it came against the Giants. After that tying blast to center field, the San Ramon Valley High graduate was hitting .348 with three homers in 28 career plate appearances against his former club.
The game, and a 3-1 lead, got away from Petit in the Cubs’ three-run fifth inning. Darwin Barney hit a sacrifice fly and Petit couldn’t close out the inning with two outs and the pitcher at the plate. Samardzija crushed an RBI double off the right field arcade and Bonifacio followed with a triple that put the Cubs ahead.
Petit’s final line: five innings, six hits, four runs (all earned), no walks and five strikeouts. He was lifted for a pinch hitter – pitcher David Huff batted as Bochy saved his limited bullets for later in the game – in the fifth.
Huff had better luck making an out at the plate than he did from the mound. His two innings were a struggle as he allowed two runs in the sixth, two more in the seventh and seven hits overall.
The Cubs collected four singles – Schierholtz had one of them – to take a 6-3 lead in the sixth. Then the Giants went completely off the rails in the seventh. Huff made an errant pickoff throw, shortstop Brandon Crawford committed an error and second baseman Brandon Hicks misplayed a grounder for a hit that originally was called an error. It took George Kontos dialing up a double-play grounder to prevent Huff’s ERA from further battery.
At the plate
Not only is Sandoval back to hitting home runs, he’s back to hitting home runs on pitches that nobody hits home runs on.
Does that make sense? Well, neither did his two-run shot in the fourth inning. Samadzija threw a wicked two-strike slider and Sandoval dug it out, sending it soaring into the arcade for his fifth homer in eight games.
Sandoval already had extended his RBI streak to six consecutive games when he singled home Angel Pagan in the first inning.
Sandoval was batting .173 with six RBIs in 35 games through May 10. But in 15 games since then, beginning when Bruce Bochy batted Sandoval cleanup at Dodger Stadium, Sandoval is hitting .386 with 16 RBIs.
The Giants led 3-1 after Sandoval’s home run but scored just once over the final five innings, when Michael Morse tripled and went home on Crawford’s single.
The scorer gave Luis Valbuena a hit in the seventh after originally charging Hicks with an error. The scoring change made both runs against Huff earned in the inning.
The Giants announced 42,257 paid. Fly the L flag.
The Giants and Cubs continue their three-game series on Tuesday at AT&T Park. Tim Hudson (4-2, 2.13) takes the mound against Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta (1-0, 2.33). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. PDT.