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San Francisco Giants: Jeff Samardzija Sharper in Return, despite loss

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 07: Jeff Samardzija #29 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at AT&T Park on July 7, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 07: Jeff Samardzija #29 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at AT&T Park on July 7, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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San Francisco Giants Jeff Samardzija returned from the disabled list today, and we didn’t quite know which Samardzija we were going to get.

We could have gotten the one who struggled with both command and velocity earlier this season. Or, we could have gotten one who commands all of his pitches in the strike zone with good velocity.

Despite the loss to the Cardinals, it appears we got the latter Samardzija today. He was not as sharp today as we have come to expect. However, he was sharper than what we saw earlier in the season.

He gave up 3 earned runs in 5 innings. This is not the type of start we would expect from an innings-eater. However, it is evident that Samardzija was on a pitch limit or innings limit. As a result, he was not going to pitch too deep into this game.

Regardless, it is important to focus on the process. And, not necessarily the results from today’s game. Yes, Samardzija gave up 3 runs, but he kept the San Francisco Giants in the game.

The Cardinals used their Death by Papercut hitting approach. Many of the hits Samardzija allowed were of the bloop variety. In addition to this, several ground balls had eyes and found holes through the infield.

The first run scored on a RBI double by the pitcher. However, this was not any ordinary double. It was a double that bounced over Pablo Sandoval‘s head. This is exactly the type of approach everyone works on in batting practice, right?

The next run scored on a sacrifice fly. The third run scored on a bloop single over Alen Hanson‘s head. That Death by Papercut approach works perfectly if a team can find those holes.

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As a result, Samardzija limited the hard contact. He effectively induced a lot of weak contact. The hardest hit ball off of Samardzija was a line out to center field. Sometimes, these bloops and seeing-eye singles will find holes. That was the case today. And, it should not minimize Samardzija’s performance.

Samardzija’s fastball velocity returned to 93 MPH. Also, his command was what we have come to expect. These are encouraging signs. It is clear Samardzija rushed himself back from injury earlier this season. In all of his earlier starts, he did not flash his typical velocity or command early in the game.

That was not the case today. He fastball velocity was consistently at 93 MPH. He sustained this velocity for his entire start. And, he showed no issues with his command. These are positives he and the Giants can build on for future starts.

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Now, Samardzija’s lack of an out pitch was one negative from today’s game. This was especially apparent in the 4th inning. This Cardinals rally started as a result of consecutive 2-strike hits. This was likely a stamina issue. However, it is something you expect to see when a player returns from the disabled list.

Ultimately, the San Francisco Giants lost Samardzija’s first start since sustaining a pectoral or shoulder injury. Samardzija did enough to keep the Giants in the game. However, the Giants rewarded Samardzija with only 2 runs of support. The hitting was the issue today. At least, Samardzija can take some positives away from this start.

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