After a rough July (one win, 5.28 ERA), Jeff Samardzija’s August isn’t looking so great, either, after he matched a career worsts Thursday of 3 1⁄3 innings and nine earned runs against the Phillies. Just nine starts from a critical contract negotiation with the club, how his numbers this year match up to his first season as a starter:
GS 24 28
ERA 4.23 3.81
IP 153 1⁄3 174 2⁄3
H 148 157
K 158 180
BB 59 56
Updated: September 10, 2013 6:31AM
PHILADELPHIA — The rest of Jeff Samardzija’s season just got a lot more interesting.
The Cubs’ ace and his manager shrugged off the worst start of Samardzija’s career in Thursday’s 12-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, but there’s little denying he hasn’t been the same performer he was the in first two or three months.
And no denying this: How he responds in his final nine starts will have a direct impact on his future with the Cubs — and by extension, the Cubs’ pitching timeline in this multiyear rebuilding process.
So if you’re looking for one Cubs story line worth following in the final seven weeks, it’s the every-five-day drama Samardzija is providing as he tries to build his case in preparation for contract negotiations.
Samardzija, who is a candidate to be shopped at next year’s trading deadline without a multiyear extension, admitted after his previous outing that the uncertainty is on his mind.
“To say it doesn’t weigh on you is a lie,” he said then.
Whether that has anything to do with his uneven results since the end of June is unclear. He’s not willing to go that far.
But in 17 starts through June, Samardzija was 5-7 with a 3.34 ERA, the victim of four shutout losses along the way — pitching at least five innings every start and less than six only three times.
In seven starts since then: 1-4, 6.75, averaging 52/3 innings and seven hits a start.
That stretch began right about the time his name first came up in trade rumors.
“When you’re good you get paid, and if you’re not very good you don’t get paid,” manager Dale Sveum said before Thursday’s game. “That’s the bottom line to contracts and contract extensions and all that.”
On this day, he faced a Phillies lineup ripe for picking apart — a Ryan Howard-less team that ranked near the bottom of the league in runs (3.8 per game) and OPS (.702) entering the day.
But he made it through just 31/3 innings and gave up nine earned runs — both matching his career worst. And that was after a 1-2-3 inning.
Sveum said he didn’t show his best split-finger. Samardzija said he thought that pitch and his slider were OK but that the Phillies had a “good game plan” to attack his fastball. Both said pitching behind in the count made it tougher to use the secondary pitches.
Regardless, it’s puts a premium — maybe even a price — on his final nine starts of the season.
Twice in the last week alone, general manager Jed Hoyer made it clear the Cubs plan to make a priority out of trying to get Samardzija signed to an extension in the offseason before he gets into his final two seasons before free agency.
“When you have guys like Samardzija get those contracts and you know you’re going to have them for an extended period of time,” Sveum said, “it’s big to the organization, big to the guys in the clubhouse, as well as myself.”
How big does that make the final seven weeks of the season?
“They’re big to me just as a competitor, period,” said Samardzija, who has just one win since June 23 — albeit, with just one or no runs of support in four of his last six. “Anytime you have a rough outing you want to bounce back with a strong one. And finishing strong for me is just always a big thing in anything you do.
“The hard work you put in [during] the offseason and the hard work you put in during the year, you want it to pay off with results.”