Cubs leave San Francisco with few souvenirs

AT&T PARK — The Chicago Cubs showcased a couple of their elite starting pitchers against the San Francisco Giants this week.

Photos by Scot Tucker and Godofredo Vasquez/SFBay

The Giants took the rubber match on Wednesday 5-0 to win the series, but Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija managed his first win of the season Monday afternoon in a 10-strikeout gem.

Samardzija (1-4) has pitched masterfully this year. He’s stymied opponents at the plate with 64 strikeouts, a microscopic 1.68 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP.

His lopsided win-loss record gives credence to the idea of him being shipped off this season. Samardzija, 29, is in a contract year and the Cubs don’t have the supporting pieces to rationalize an extension.

The Baltimore Orioles are thought to be the front-runners in the Samardzija sweepstakes, according to Bruce Levine of CBS Sports.

Former Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta (1-1, 3.20 ERA) pitched Game 2 of the three-game series in the Bay.

Arrieta had a slow start, settled down after a two-run first inning, but eventually surrendered two more in the fifth inning. He was also thoroughly outpitched by Tim Hudson.

Hudson’s been doing that to everyone, so Arrieta shouldn’t take it too personally.

Arrieta exuded physical agitation when the Giants small-balled him for two runs in fifth inning.

He looked confused with his hands on his sides trying to understand how two infield singles, two stolen bases, a sacrifice fly and Pablo Sandoval’s weakly-fisted single to shallow left field turned into two runs. He described it later as a “nickle-and-dime” kind of inning.

The 28-year-old righty looks like a better option to re-sign than Samardzija, if only to avoid a higher arbitration cost for the Cubs. Signing Arrieta to a multi-year deal would most likely be cheaper in the long run.

Jason Hammel looks to be another trade chip for the Cubs. At 31, Hammel (5-3) has posted a respectable 3.08 ERA and is fourth in the league in WHIP (0.90) behind Johnny Cueto, Adam Wainwright and, you guessed it, Tim Hudson (0.88).

The Giants and Cubs came into the series eighth and 12th in the League in starting-pitching ERA. They also employ two of the best bullpens (third and 11th).

The Cubs’ bullpen was solid the first two games of the series, pitching four innings of two-hit ball with a walk and three strikeouts.

Game 3, though, was a problem. They surrendered two inherited runs that were charged to Edwin Jackson (3-5, 4.81 ERA) who pitched well after 5-1/3 innings and nine Ks.

Jackson’s head sank in the dugout after he watched helplessly as James Russell allowed one of his runs and Brian Schlitter another.

The bullpen went on to give up three more earned runs.

Justin Grimm looked as upset as Jackson after Hector Sanchez took Grimm deep to left-center for a two-out, two-run double in the seventh inning. He resided on the mound in frustration as Sandoval pounded his hand on home plate three times after sliding in to score the game’s fifth run.

Overall, the Cubs starters combined for a 4.48 ERA, 25 strike outs and three walks in 18-1/3 innings. That’s compared to the Giants’ 2.12 ERA, 15 strikeouts and four walks in 17 innings of work.

The North Siders will look to right the ship in Milwaukee as they finish up their 10-game road trip against the Brewers on Friday.