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Jeff Samardzija finishes season with a flourish in Cubs’ win

Cubs starter Jeff Samardzijfinishes with 174 2/3 innings team-leading 3.81 ERA. | Keith Srakocic~AP

Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija finishes with 174 2/3 innings and a team-leading 3.81 ERA. | Keith Srakocic~AP

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The facts: 12:35, Ch. 9, 720-AM.

The starters: Chris Rusin (0-2, 9.00 ERA) vs. Jeff Locke (0-1, 4.82).

Updated: October 10, 2012 6:43AM

PITTSBURGH — Jeff Samardzija’s favorite T-shirt was faded after more than a year of wear and sweat-stained after his first career complete game Saturday. But the “F---the goat’’ lettering might have been as easy to read on this night as any other.

In his final start during this first season as a big-league starter, Samardzija might have done more than anyone else on the team this season in any single game to suggest the vision of the new front office — more or less, the anti-curse sentiment on the T-shirt — can be realized with at least a handful of the guys now on the roster.

Knowing he would be given a chance to go as deep into his final start as he could effectively pitch, Samardzija shook off a rough first inning to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3, striking out nine and allowing only an unearned run after the first.

“It was big for him to be that so-called No. 1 guy and give us back-to-back wins on the road in I don’t know how long,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. “That’s the sign of a No. 1 guy, who can step up like that.’’

Samardzija (9-14) finishes with 1742/3 innings and a team-leading 3.81 ERA — mostly on the strength of an exceptional second half.

“Going out in the ninth inning, I was just kind of looking back on everything that I’ve one, everything that’s happened the last few years,’’ he said, “how much I put pressure on myself this season, to ask to be a starter and to perform as a starter.”

“I just didn’t want to leave any question marks out there. It was a good way to end for sure.’’

And while conventional wisdom suggests the Cubs won’t be competitive again for at least another year or two, Samardzija disputes that. And as a high-velocity pitcher some think can perform all season like he did during a 2.58 second half, he’ll have the most to say about it.

“You look at any professional sport and there’s always quick turnarounds, period,’’ he said. “Everybody here has good players and the talent levels on every team is closer than you think.

“If we get off to a hot start [next year], and our young guys are playing good and get some confidence, anything can happen.’’

Until then, Samardzija spends the rest of the season as a pinch-runner while his spot in the rotation is filled by Jason Berken, a right-hander from Green Bay claimed off waivers Friday.

NOTES: Catcher Steve Clevenger was suspended for one game and fined for “aggressive actions and fighting’’ during the second of two bench-clearing incidents Thursday in Washington. Clevenger, who served his suspension Saturday night, said he had no regrets and was “trying to protect my team.’’

◆ Bench coach Jamie Quirk and reliever Manny Corpas, the two other Cubs ejected Thursday night, were not suspended.

◆ The Cubs fired six more holdovers from within the organization this week, including Class AAA manager Dave Bialas, who had been with the organization for 18 years.

◆ Sveum said center fielder Brett Jackson (knee) was “very day-to-day-ish’’ after crashing into a wall making a catch Friday.

◆ For the first time, Sveum batted the pitcher eighth Saturday, using Tony Campana as a second leadoff hitter in the No. 9 spot — and Sveum may do it again depending how long Campana is needed to fill in for Jackson.

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