Not many people expected the Cubs to compete this year, so their poor record 40 games into the season is no surprise.
But even fewer thought they would go into the middle of May with only two combined victories from Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson, the Nos. 1-2 pitchers in the Cubs’ rotation.
The return of Matt Garza, combined with Samardzija and Jackson, was supposed to give the Cubs a solid threesome that matched up well with almost any other staff in the National League.
And on a cool night at Wrigley Field, Samardzija snapped a personal five-game losing streak Wednesday in a 6-3 victory over the Rockies, adding his first home run in nearly four years.
It was the first series triumph for the Cubs since Aug. 25-26, when they also beat the Rockies two out of three.
Samardzija was his own worst enemy in his last start against the Nationals, and despite some good outings has lacked the consistency the Cubs expected out of him after a solid 2012.
“Hopefully he doesn’t have that one pitch or one mistake that seems to snowball into a decent inning for the other team,” manager Dale Sveum said before the game.
Samardzija stayed out of the big inning and turned in a strong performance, allowing two runs on five hits with seven strikeouts over eight innings. He managed to pitch eight innings for the first time since winning the opener in Pittsburgh on April 1, holding onto a slim lead most of the night until the Cubs broke through with a three-run seventh off the Rockies bullpen.
With the wind dying down by game time and the temperature cooling into the mid 50s, David DeJesus started off the Cubs’ first with a home run off Jon Garland, his fifth of the season. The Rockies tied it in the second on Josh Rutledge’s run-scoring single, but Darwin Barney’s two-out double in the second and a first-pitch, two-run homer from Samardzija gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
It was Samardzija’s first homer since Sept. 23, 2009 at Milwaukee.
Barney went 4-for-8 in the first two games of the homestand, and appears to be coming out of his season-long slump. Last weekend in Washington, general manager Jed Hoyer was asked how much patience the Cubs would have with Barney.
“Quite a bit,” he replied. “He adds a lot to our team when he’s playing well. He’s a great defender and we’ll certainly be patient with him. He has earned a lot of playing time with the season he had last year. That’s Dale’s call, but I know I feel a lot better when he’s in the lineup because he’s a great defender and he brings so many things to the game. He’s a winning player.”
With the Cubs leading 3-2, Barney walked to lead off the seventh before back-to-back RBI singles from Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo gave Samardzija some breathing room.