Samardzija Chops Down the Braves – Cubs 4, Braves 1

Game Seventy-Nine – Cubs 4, Braves 1
WP – Jeff Samardzija (6-7) LP – Tommy Hanson (9-5) Save – James Russell (2)

wflag.jpgDale Sveum’s team picked up where they left off on the recently completed homestand and won their fourth game in a row for the first time this season. Jeff Samardzija and Tommy Hanson battled it out for the second time this year … and for the second time, Samardzija came out on top.

Jeff Samardzija put together his best start in well over a month and arguably his best outing of the season. Samardzija had everything going for him Monday night. Samardzija pounded the strike zone and kept the Braves off balance for a majority of his outing. Samardzija did struggle a little bit the third time through the lineup. The Braves only run scored in the sixth and Samardzija surrendered three of his four hits in the sixth and seventh innings. Samardzija credited his splitter for Monday’s success … and he had a very good slider as well.

Jeff Samardzija struck out four of the first nine batters he faced and ended up with a career-high 11 strikeouts on Monday night (previous high, nine on April 24 against the Cardinals). Samardzija struck out both Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman three times each. Samardzija walked just one on 101 pitches, 67 for strikes. Samardzija picked up his first win since May 29.

Shawn Camp pitched a scoreless eighth and James Russell picked up his second save with a scoreless ninth.

Anthony Rizzo (2-for-4 with a home run) gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead with his second home run in six games. Rizzo hit a no doubter over the wall in left center on Hanson’s first pitch in the fourth. The Braves tied the game in the sixth on a two-out double by Michael Bourn and a RBI single by Martin Prado.

The Cubs took the lead for good in the seventh inning. Bryan LaHair (1-for-4 with a run scored) and Steve Clevenger (2-for-4 with a run scored) reached on back-to-back singles to start the inning. After Darwin Barney (0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored) worked the Cubs only free pass of the game, Luis Valbuena (2-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI) cleared the bases with his second double.

The Cubs defense stepped up Monday night. Darwin Barney turned in two excellent plays in the eighth inning … one diving stop to his right and one diving stop to his left that took hits away from Andrelton Simmons and Eric Hinske. Anthony Rizzo helped complete a 6-4-3 double play in the ninth by making a difficult play look routine.

The Cubs played a complete game for one of the few times this year and have won six of their last seven.

With Monday’s win, the Cubs improved to 30-49 on the season …

Tommy Hanson struck out Tony Campana swinging on three pitches to start the game. Starlin Castro pulled a 1-2 pitch to the hole at short. Andrelton Simmons showed off his arm and barely threw out Castro at first for the second out. Tommy Hanson jumped ahead of Anthony Rizzo 1-2. Rizzo worked the count full before driving a hanging curveball (seventh pitch) into left center. Rizzo ended up at first with a single but did not advance … Alfonso Soriano struck out swinging on a curveball in the dirt for the third out.

Jeff Samardzija was sharp in the bottom of the first and set down the Braves in order on 11 pitches, nine for strikes. Samardzija struck out both Martin Prado and Jason Heyward swinging in the opening frame.

The Cubs did nothing in the second. Tommy Hanson threw 29 pitches, 21 for strikes, in the first two innings.

Samardzija retired Chipper Jones (fly out to left) and Freddie Freeman (swinging strikeout) on five pitches to start the second. Dan Uggla then hit a routine grounder to short. Starlin Castro fielded the ball and just held it too long. Uggla beat out Castro’s throw for the Braves’ first hit of the game (after the inning it was reported that Castro was waiting for Rizzo to get to the bag, Rizzo was in a shift for Uggla). Jeff Samardzija was visibly upset and shouted two expletives in Castro’s direction. Brian McCann hit a weak grounder to second (first pitch) to end the inning. Samardzija threw 22 pitches, 17 for strikes, in the first two innings.

Luis Valbuena led off the second with a double to left. Jeff Samardzija bunted him to third. Tommy Hanson struck out Campana on three pitches again (Campana looked overmatched) and Castro popped out to right (1-1 pitch) to end the inning.

Jeff Samardzija jumped ahead of Andrelton Simmons 1-2 before the Braves’ rookie worked the count back to full. Samardzija ended up losing him and issued the leadoff walk. Tommy Hanson could not get the bunt down and fouled off the 0-2 attempt for the second out. Simmons took off for second on a 1-1 pitch to Michael Bourn. Simmons slid in safe with his first big league stolen base. Clevenger did not block a 2-1 offering and Simmons took third on what was scored a wild pitch. Sveum brought his infield in and Bourn hit a weak liner right to Castro … Castro flipped the ball to Valbuena to double off Simmons to end the inning. Samardzija dodged a bullet and threw 37 pitches over three innings, 25 strikes.

Anthony Rizzo launched Tommy Hanson’s first pitch of the fourth inning into the bleachers beyond the left centerfield wall. Alfonso Soriano popped out to Uggla (3-2 pitch) for the first out and Bryan LaHair struck out swinging for out number two. Steve Clevenger drove a 2-1 pitch into left center for a single … but Darwin Barney grounded out to third to end the inning. Hanson threw 58 pitches in four innings, 43 for strikes.

Jeff Samardzija struck out the side swinging in the fourth … Prado, Heyward and Jones. Samardzija threw 53 pitches in the first four innings, 34 for strikes.

The Cubs did nothing in the fifth … 1-2-3 for Hanson on just nine pitches.

Jeff Samardzija struck out Freddie Freeman swinging to start the fifth (four strikeouts in a row for Samardzija). Dan Uggla lined out to left and McCann grounded out to Rizzo … 1-2-3 for Samardzija and after five his pitch count stood at 68 (46 strikes).

The Braves defense help Hanson set down the Cubs in order in the sixth. Chipper Jones took away a double from Starlin Castro and Andrelton Simmons made a smash off the bat of Anthony Rizzo look routine. Hanson struck out Soriano swinging to end the inning … 76 pitches for Hanson after six, 56 for strikes.

Samardzija began the sixth by retiring Simmons on a grounder to second and struck out Hanson looking. Michael Bourn stepped to the plate for the third time on the night against Samardzija. Bourn lined a 2-2 pitch into the left field corner. Bourn ended up with an easy double then scored when Martin Prado ripped a 2-1 pitch into left. With the game tied at one and Prado on first, Samardzija refocused and struck out Heyward swinging to end the inning … 88 pitches for Samardzija after six, 60 for strikes.

Bryan LaHair lined a single into center (2-1 pitch) to start the seventh. Steve Clevenger ripped the first pitch he saw into center and LaHair ended up at third with no outs. Darwin Barney walked on five pitches to load the bases for Luis Valbuena.

Luis Valbuena pulled the first pitch he saw into the right field corner. Heyward stumbled as he bent over to catch the ball and fell down. LaHair, Clevenger and Barney scored on Valbuena’s double … and Valbuena ended up at third when Freeman dropped Heyward’s throw.

With the Cubs up 4-1, Valbuena on third and no outs … Samardzija grounded out to first, Campana grounded out to first and Castro struck out swinging (3-2 pitch) to end the inning.

Chipper Jones ripped Samardzija’s first pitch of the seventh into right field. Bryan LaHair misplayed the ball and Jones took advantage of LaHair’s inexperience. Jones ended up at second with a leadoff double. To Samardzija’s credit, he continued throwing strikes. Samardzija struck out Freeman for the third time in the game, Uggla flied out to center (2-0 pitch) and McCann grounded out to first (1-1 pitch) to end the inning.

After seven, the Cubs led 4-1.

Cristhian Martinez took over in the eighth. Anthony Rizzo reached on an error by Freddie Freeman to start the frame. Alfonso Soriano struck out looking, third time Soriano struck out Monday night. Bryan LaHair worked the count to 3-2. Rizzo took off for second as Freeman made up for his error by taking a hit away from LaHair. Clevenger grounded out to first to end the inning.

Shawn Camp pitched the eighth and thanks to two excellent plays by Darwin Barney the Braves were kept off the board. Barney made a diving stop on a ball ticketed for center off the bat of Andrelton Simmons. Barney got to his feet quickly and threw to Anthony Rizzo, who made a very good stretch and scoop, for the first out. Eric Hinske hit for Martinez and Barney took a hit from him as well. Barney dove to his left and threw out Hinske for the second out. Michael Bourn reached on an infield single to the hole at short. Bourn took off for second on a 1-2 pitch to Prado. Clevenger did not make a throw. With Bourn at second, Prado flied out to right to end the inning.

The Cubs did nothing against Chad Durbin in the ninth … and the game went to the bottom of the ninth with the Cubs up 4-1.

Jason Heyward greeted James Russell with a single to left (1-2 pitch) to start the ninth. Russell jumped ahead of Chipper Jones 0-2 before Jones pulled a 2-2 pitch toward short. Castro fielded the ball, threw to Barney and Rizzo made an excellent scoop to complete the 6-4-3 double play. Freddie Freeman flied out to center (3-2 pitch) to end the game.

That is four in a row and six of seven for the Cubs …

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Chris Volstad is scheduled to face Jair Jurrjens on Tuesday night.

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