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Shark shushes Harper, Phillies

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Jeff Samardzija’s performance Saturday afternoon facing a Phillies squad that shelled Giants pitchers for nine runs the night before was nothing short of dominant.

He allowed just two hits over eight innings, striking out five and walking none, and retired 20 straight from the first inning into the eighth in San Francisco’s 3-1 victory over Philadelphia (60-57) at Oracle Park.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at Oracle Park.

After allowing a solo bomb to Corey Dickerson, the third batter of the afternoon, Samardzija (W, 9-9, 3.55 ERA) became downright untouchable.

He was both confident and efficient with his pitches, relying on his defense to do its job. As a result, he tossed eight innings for just the second time this season, a contrast to the four-inning start he made against the Nationals Monday.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that was one of the best performances he’s seen from Samardzija and he was glowing with praise for the big righty:

“He was right on with all his pitches. He’s in a really good place as far as commanding the ball with all four pitches, both sides of the plate and pitches up. That was a great job of executing four pitches for eight innings.”

Samardzija spent the better part of his 2018 campaign battling a nagging shoulder injury that left him ineffective and in pain but he’s finally returned to form in 2019. In his last eight starts he is 5-2, with a 1.95 ERA.

After a long offseason of rehab and work to bounce back he said he feels he has evolved into a different guy with the same confidence:

“For a while there it was such a grind just to go out there and get an out, it didn’t feel good and you never forget that. So it helps to have that in your mind that you were there once so you don’t kind of take for granted the way you feel today.”

Vital to Samardzija’s success Saturday was the neutralization of Bryce Harper, whose two dingers hurt the Giants (58-60) the night before. Not only did the Shark keep Harper in the park, he kept him off the bases altogether. 

Samardzija said getting in a steady rhythm helped him overwhelm Phillies hitters:

“Them hitting Bryce first and then Rhys second [in the lineup] really makes you have to be on your game early. And then those guys come back around real quick, too, so the quicker you can put them up and down and you don’t let them get into a good rhythm, it helps out a lot. I was trying to keep a good pace out there, and just attack them.”

And attack he did. Hoskins drew 23 pitches from Samardzija, fouling nine off across three at-bats, but like Harper, he failed to make any headway and was sent packing each time.

And the Giants offense supported Samardzija’s lights-out performance Saturday. Though they failed to cash in on a few rallies, they still got the job done. Bochy said:

“If you don’t get those hits with runners in scoring position you better hit a couple homers, and that’s what we did today.”

After Vince Velasquez (L, 4-7, 4.30 ERA) plunked leadoff hitter Scooter Gennett in the right arm to open the second, Velasquez hurled a 93-mph, 1-1 fastball inside to Evan Longoria, drawing grief from 39,106 present at the yard. Longoria took revenge, launching the next pitch 438 feet into the left-field bleachers (14) just a few rows below the Local 38 Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Union banner, to put the Giants up, 2-1.

Kevin Pillar added on with his team-leading 15th homer of the season to open the fifth for an insurance run.

The homer marked Pillar’s 60th RBI of the season, both a team-lead and a single-season career-high for him. Ten of his 15 homers this year have come at Oracle Park, despite its reputation as a pitcher’s park. Of his success at home, Pillar said:

“I just try to stay with my same approach and try to put the ball through the middle of the field and try to get my hits at home. I feel like the more times you square balls up you occasionally get some lift on them and are able to hit some homers and I feel like that’s what I’ve been able to do here.”

Will Smith (S, 28, 2.50 ERA) kept things uncharacteristically interesting in the ninth inning Saturday, allowing a one-out single to pinch-hitter Sean Rodríguez to bring Harper to the plate as the tying run.

He whiffed Harper, good for a standing ovation from Giants fans, but then walked Rhys Hoskins. So with two on and two outs, he had to face Dickerson, already responsible for the earlier jack.

Smitty came through for Samardzija after upping the drama, though, getting Dickerson on a whiff and closing the door in the Phillies face.

 

Up Next

Southpaw Conner Menez (0-1, 5.73 ERA) will make his third major league start Sunday at Oracle Park in the series finale with Philadelphia facing right-hander Jake Arrieta (8-8, 4.41 ERA) as the Giants aim for their first series victory since taking two of three from San Diego July 26-28. The Giants have since lost three series in a row dating back to last week when they dropped two of three in Philadelphia. Sunday’s first pitch is set for 4:07 p.m. 

Notes

Johnny Cueto threw two innings Friday in his second rehab outing since undergoing Tommy John surgery last August. He hit 92-mph on the radar gun and threw 15 additional pitches in the bullpen after his start. He will make another start in five days with San Jose where he is scheduled to throw 40 pitches. … Alex Dickerson (right oblique strain) continues to ramp up baseball activities and Bochy said he expects the outfielder to begin a short rehab in Sacramento Tuesday. Dickerson said the details haven’t been nailed down yet but it generally doesn’t take him long to regain his timing, and he wouldn’t expect a rehab assignment to take longer than a day or two. Said Dickerson:

“I took swings today and it felt pretty good. It wasn’t grabbing on me. I’m hoping to progress to batting practice tomorrow and hopefully it moves pretty quickly from there.”


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