Jeff Samardzija was in the news near the end of camp when Theo Epstein told a reporter the right-hander dumped his girlfriend last year to prove he was committed to becoming a starter. If Samardzija continues to dominate the way he did Monday during the Cubs' 3-1 opening-day victory over the Pirates, his decision to become a bachelor could pay long-term dividends for both the pitcher and the franchise. In his first opening-day start, Samardzija fired eight shutout innings against Pirates, allowing two hits while striking out seven in his best outing to date. The only other Cubs pitcher since 1914 to allow two or fewer hits over eight or more innings of an opener was Lon Warneke, who tossed a complete game, one-hit shutout on April 17, 1934. On a day that started out with a light snowfall and evolved into a sunny, 41-degree afternoon, Samardzija outpitched A.J. Burnett and watched the bullpen survive a shaky ninth inning. "I remember being in high school pitching in the snow against Michigan City (Ind.)," Samardzija said. "It wasn't that bad. That snow cleared up and the sun came out. What a beautiful day to play baseball." Samardzija retired 14 straight batters from the second into the sixth inning, using a four-seam fastball and splitter to keep the Pirates at bay. Except for a second-inning single and a sixth-inning double, no balls were hit to the outfield off Samardzija. Anthony Rizzo gave the Cubs a quick lead in the first with a 438-foot, two-run homer on the first pitch he saw from Burnett. Rizzo had homered for Italy in a March 5 exhibition game against the A's in early March but didn't hit any in the Cactus League.
Samardzija at his best in Cubs opener
Chicago Tribune | Apr 2