After a very promising outing yesterday by Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija threw a quality start of his own in a 5-2 victory against the Chicago Cubs. Perhaps the corner has been turned by the two free-agent signees by the SF Giants.
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There really is no way of knowing for sure how a free agent is going to adapt to a new organization. Even with the very inviting confines of the San Francisco Giants clubhouse, it still is a question that most fans have. But professional athletes don’t only look at the money that they make as a motivator, but also pride in their work. And both Cueto and Samardzija have shown the last two days that the pride is right in the forefront of their mind.
Forget about easing the fans’ concerns over the rotation, these two are competitors as well as workhorses. Both have track records that tell you that they eat innings, and the only way to do that is to be effective. And never mind Samardzija’s ERA last year. The defense behind him, as well as the park he will play half of his games in will assist in bringing that down.
But there still is a fear that now that the money is made, the motivation might be gone. But when you are going to a franchise that is focused on going to the World Series, not just playing meaningful games in September, the motivation is intense.
The Shark went out and provided the team with its second consecutive quality start, after Cueto went six innings and allowed three runs yesterday. Most importantly, like Cueto, Samardzija didn’t allow a walk in his six innings. The fact that he was able to stay in the strike zone in Arizona without giving up a ton of runs is the most important stat. Keeping hitters off-balance is the key to pitching, Some strike zones are wider than others, and so changing speeds is more important than anything. And with his ability to use his defense and trust his stuff, the Giants will be in great shape moving into the season with him as the number three.
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Madison Bumgarner is Madison Bumgarner. There is no reason to think that his ability to get guys out is going to change drastically. There may be a slight drop-off in production due to his workload over the last couple of seasons. But with a number two and three who can go deep into games, Bruce Bochy won;t have to tax his bullpen as much as last year, and therefore he will be able to go out and get Bumgarner out of the game a little earlier than he did in the past if he looks gassed.
These games in the spring don’t mean anything, except when it comes to gaining trust in the newer teammates. Trusting the staff and lineup is so important to the coaches and players, and feeling that the team trusts your abilities is just as important. The last couple of games has really given the Giants a sense that they will be able to rely on the two new acquisitions, and turn their attention to the other remaining questions.
Like, “who is going to be the 25th man?”
Samardzija’s outing today, in which he retired the first 11 batters he faced, was against the team that drafted him. Not that there is any need for any more motivation besides having a strong outing and setting his team’s mind at ease. He struck out four and scattered five hits, giving up two runs.
The bullpen was strong, walking only one in the final three innings of work while allowing four hits. Two of those hits were off of Hunter Strickland, who got a game ending double play ball to finish things off in the ninth.
Tomorrow it’s Jake Peavy going against the Chicago White Sox at 1:05pm and Matt Cain will work in a minor league game to try and get his pitch count up and see if he will be ready to start the season in the rotation.