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Cubs fall to Diamondbacks as Jeff Samardzija’s struggles continue

Jeff Samardzijhas thrown no more than 5 1/3 innings any his four starts June after going six seven with least

Jeff Samardzija has thrown no more than 5 1/3 innings in any of his four starts in June after going six of seven with at least six innings and four of those going at least seven. | Ross D. Franklin~AP

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Updated: June 23, 2012 1:10AM

PHOENIX — Jeff Samardzija doesn’t think he’s starting to hit a midseason funk in his first full big-league season as a starter.

“Honestly, I feel better right now than what I did [earlier in the season],” said the Cubs right-hander, who cruised through the first three innings before struggling to get through five-plus in a 6-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night. “I need to go back and look at the film the last couple times out. But even after the Boston game [in the previous start], I felt pretty good in how I threw and how the ball’s coming out.”

But the fact remains that Samardzija has thrown no more than 5 1/3 innings in any of his four starts in June after going six of seven with at least six innings and four of those going at least seven.

He has thrown 83 innings, only five short of his total as a reliever last season.

It’s enough to put manager Dale Sveum on alert.

“I’ve been noticing about the 80-pitch mark the ball gets up,” Sveum said. “Even though there’s no [loss of] velocity, the ball’s getting up. That’s when the walks start coming in. So we’re going to have to monitor that because it’s definitely getting to be a pattern.”

Samardzija (5-6) needed only 35 pitches to get through the first three innings Friday and take a 1-0 lead into the fourth.

But with one out, he fell behind 3-0 to Jason Kubel, who hit the next pitch for a two-run homer. After getting two quick outs in the fifth, he gave up pitcher Brad Ziegler’s first career hit, the first of three consecutive singles that brought home another run.

After walking the first two batters in the sixth, he hung a split-finger pitch to Miguel Montero, who drove a triple to right, ending Samardzija’s night.

“It’s just those times when there’s runners on base you need to really bear down and make your pitches,” Samardzija said. “Especially with runners in scoring position. I left a pitch up to Montero, which is a big pitch. Those are make-or-break times in the game.”

Not that the Cubs’ lineup did much to help Samardzija, who had one of the team’s nine hits.

The Cubs went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, stranding 11 men. They left the bases loaded twice, the first time after loading them with one out in the second.

“Same old story,” said Sveum, whose team has scored three runs in three games since a 12-run outburst against the White Sox on Monday. “We had our chances to get back into it or bust it open, but we couldn’t get that big hit to do it.”

It didn’t help that Sveum loaded his lineup with right-handed hitters to face lefty Joe Saunders, only to have Saunders scratched minutes before game time after experiencing shoulder stiffness warming up.

He was replaced by right-hander Josh Collmenter, who allowed only Geovany Soto’s solo home run in four innings.

Sveum said he had time to change the lineup but believed it wouldn’t make much of a difference against Collmenter, whose “funky” delivery makes it especially difficult for anyone who hasn’t faced him several times.

“We had no prior history with him. None of our hitters had ever faced him,” Sveum said. “I saw it last year. For [hitters who’d] never faced him before, he’s a completely different pitcher. He’s a guy you have to face three, four, five times before you get a reading on that arm slot and everything.”

On the other hand, the Cubs are 3-15 when a lefty starts.

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