CHICAGO — When the Giants shelled out 90-million bucks for free agent Jeff Samardzija last offseason, it was precisely with situations like the one on Thursday night in mind.
September. Division race. Four-game series. Quality opponent. On the road.
“It is,” manager Bruce Bochy agreed with Balls before the game against the Chicago Cubs, the best team in baseball to this point. “We’ve talked a lot [about it] obviously with the signing.”
Well, it’s past time that Samardzija does his part before it’s too late.
Samardzija was staked to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. That was his cue to hang a zero on the board and set the tone. Instead, the lead lasted all of five betters. Walk. Double. Out. Single. Single. Three runs.
Samardzija aided his cause with a sacrifice fly later, but that wasn’t why he was brought to the Bay Area. He lasted only 87 pitches and four innings, put a burden on the bullpen and couldn’t beat a Cubs pitcher who wasn’t part of their regular rotation. The Giants eventually went on to lose 5-4.
The relievers held on for two innings before the homies got to Will Smith and Cory Gearrin in the seventh. Addison Russell overturned a 4-3 deficit with a two-run single — the same Addison Russell whom the Athletics donated to the Cubs two years ago.
The Cubs don’t consider this to be a make-or-break series. Hey, that’s what a team with a 15-game lead in the Central Division should say.
But for the Giants, who are in a cat fight with the dreaded Los Angeles Dodgers for the West Division lead, they know how big the series can be. Last August they came to Wrigley Field, were swept over four games and never fully recovered.
“They have to be the favorites,” Bochy said of the Cubbies, who had most of Chicago in full party mode. “That’s how good they are.”
In that case, the Giants may want to bounce back on Friday night before the snowball becomes another avalanche.
REST OF THE STORY: If the Giants fall short of another Even Year championship, there’s another reason why Samardzija should be held partly responsible.
Samardzija was a key figure in the ill-fated deal that sent Russell to the Cubs midway through the 2014 season. Two years later, it’s only a matter of time before Russell takes the torch from the Giants’ Brandon Crawford as the National League’s best shortstop.
One night earlier, Russell produced one of those jaw-droppers that you saw but still didn’t believe, a sliding catch down the left field line that saved a victory. According to Statcast, he ran 106 feet in 5.4 seconds, the most ground that any shortstop had covered in less than 5.5 seconds since the data was recorded.
Now you know why Russell is known as the next Derek Jeter around here.
SEND OUT THE CLOWN: Colin Kaepernick actually led the Santa Clara 49ers to a touchdown on their first drive of the game, but it meant zero. The fourth and final preseason game counts least of all. As usual, what he did best was run with the ball (35 yards, three carries) against a bunch of San Diego Chargers scrubs.
The bigger commotion took place before the game, when Kaepernick wore socks that had pigs in police helmets. The stunt drew the wrath of the National Association of Police Organizations, which also threw NFL commissioner Roger Goodall under the bus.
See, Mr. Me doesn’t want to just blow up his career. He wants to take the team, the franchise and the league with it.
Sure, the freedom-mongers will raise heck if Kaepernick doesn’t make the final cut this weekend. But so much of football has to do with team chemistry, and this guy poisons it. Eric Reid was the only sheep who followed Kaepernick and sat out the national anthem. The Niners are up to their face masks with problems already. The last thing they need is this kind of distraction week after stinkin’ week.
Coach Chip Kelly says Kaeperick is one of the two best quarterbacks on the roster. Wow, Balls is impressed. Retreads Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder are the competition. Two months short of 29, Kaepernick is the past. It’s time to look to the future. Better to give rookie Jeff Driskel some snaps and lose enough games to take Clemson QB Deshaun Watson in the draft.
Since CEO Jed York and company value dollars more than sense, here’s another reason to act sooner than later: They’ll pocket the $1.125 roster bonus if Kaepernick is pushed out the door before the regular season opener.
Because Kaepernick reportedly has a $20-million insurance policy that covers his guaranteed $19.7 million salaries in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the organization is covered in the event of a career-ending injury. But if he was to have an injury that finished his season, it would be liable for his $14.5 million salary in the next one.
You watch, people. If Kaepernick is allowed to stay around, he’ll fake an injury if necessary rather than put his butt on the line with a bad team.
Bottom line: Kaepernick is a snake who can’t be trusted.
CERTAINLY, NYUK, NYUK, NYUK: The Niners added free agent retread Jeremy Kerley to their anemic wide receiver corps. Mo, Larry and Schemp aren’t available, you know.
JUST ASKIN’: So when does Kelly call unemployed Riley Cooper, whom he backed for a pay raise not long after the then Philadelphia Eagles racist hurled slurs at a concert three years ago?
YOUR TURN: “You’re spot on about [Colin] Pickernick! I no longer support the ‘professional’ football team in Santa Clara since the [Jim] Harbaugh/[Jim] Tomsula debacle proved beyond a doubt that they have no idea what they’re doing. Until either the dorks sell the team or Prince Dork realizes he doesn’t know anything about football and hires someone who does and stays out of the way, the professional football team of Santa Clara is dead to me.” — Del Davis, Pinole
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