PHILADELPHIA – The City of Brotherly Love has not been kind to Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. In his four appearances at Citizens Bank Park, he is 0-2 with a 15.43 ERA.
Making his fourth start of the season since being sidelined for 18 games with a strained pectoral muscle, the right-hander was looking to defy his own personal history on Monday night in the series opener against the Phillies.
History, however, decided to repeat itself, treating Samardzija and the Giants to a deflating 11-0 loss.
“His command was off,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He was back to having his normal stuff, but he needs his command. He’s been pitching without that. I’m sure he was amped-up. I’m just glad he finished that first inning. I almost had to go get him.”
Things went south fairly quickly for Samardzija. In the bottom of the first, after walking both Cesar Hernandez and Rhys Hoskins, he gave up a first-pitch home run to Odubel Herrera, handing the Phillies an early three-run lead. Samardzija struggled to find his rhythm throughout the inning, and by the time Bochy jogged out for a quick word, he’d had already thrown close to 40 pitches.
In Bochy’s words, Samardzija “put in some pretty good work after that,” retiring the next six batters he faced. But Samardzija’s woes continued in the fourth. Phillies shortstop Scott Kingery singled on a grounder to right field, and then lead-off hitter Cesar Hernandez tagged an 89-mph slider for his third home run of the season, bumping Philadelphia’s lead to five.
“I have to get that slider right,” Samardzija said. “That pitch is big for me. It’s a utility pitch. I have to give it some depth and get it back in the zone.”
With his pitch count at 90, Samardzija was pulled at the end of the stanza, clearing the rubber for D.J. Snelten. The left-handed reliever promptly allowed five runs on six hits, one of them a 401-foot blast to center field by Carlos Santana that was nearly caught by a leaping Gorkys Hernandez. The ball landed in the outfielder’s glove at the same time that his left arm bashed against the padded rail, and the force of the impact shook the ball loose. After the play, Hernandez lay for a moment on the dirt of the warning track.
The Giants’ offense, which had scored 33 runs over the last four games, could muster only six hits against Phillies righty Zach Eflin. Eflin was stellar through 6 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out nine, a career best.
Despite the blanking loss, some good news did emerge from the clubhouse: Right-handed starter Johnny Cueto, who at the beginning of May was placed on the 10-day DL with inflammation in his throwing elbow, will not require Tommy John surgery.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Bruce Bochy, “but we got the better of the news. I was always thinking rehab, and that’s the way we’re going. It’ll be a couple of weeks before Johnny picks up a baseball, but he’s ecstatic that he won’t have to go through the long ordeal of surgery.”
Before his elbow sprain, nobody was throwing the ball better than Cueto. His record was 3-0 with a league-leading 0.84 ERA.
Tomorrow the Giants face a similarly astute pitcher in the Phillies’ Aaron Nola, whose 2.17 ERA ranks him sixth in the National League.