In 2014, the A’s had Jeff Samardzija lined up to open the American League Division Series – a start Samardzija never got to make when Oakland lost the wild-card game to the Kansas City Royals.
On Saturday, Samardzija finally will get that division series start – for the Giants, against the team that drafted him.
Samardzija will pitch Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Cubs, who will start right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Samardzija will be followed by Madison Bumgarner in Game 3 at AT&T Park and Matt Moore in Game 4, if necessary, manager Bruce Bochy said Friday.
“Jeff’s been throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “You look at his work these last six, seven weeks. Really, it’s his turn. He’s earned this. So he gets a start here.”
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Samardzija compiled a 2.86 ERA over his last 11 starts and finished September with 42 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings. That did include a game Sept. 1 at Wrigley Field in which the right-hander lasted just four innings, allowing three runs in a 47-pitch first. He shrugged it off Friday as “just one of those days, man.”
“I’m just excited that I’m getting an opportunity to pitch in a playoff game,” Samardzija said, “which for me have been few and far between.”
Samardzija spent six-plus seasons with the Cubs and pitched in one playoff game in 2008, throwing an inning of relief in Game 1 of the NLDS – his only postseason appearance. As for facing the Cubs, he said he doesn’t have much connection to a roster that is much different from when he left in 2014.
Bochy could have started Moore in Game 2 but opted for Samardzija, who went 12-11 with a 3.81 ERA in his first season as a Giant. Bochy said Samardzija’s experience at Wrigley Field also factored into the decision, and that Samardzija will be an option out of the bullpen later in the series.
“We didn’t really get too far into depth why he made his decision,” Samardzija said. “I’m going to take it as he has confidence in me, and I’m not going to let him down.”
Roster calls – Third baseman Eduardo Nunez, who has battled a hamstring injury, is on the Giants’ roster for the NLDS. Bochy said Friday afternoon that Nunez would be available to pinch hit in Game 1 and probably could play defense in an emergency.
Left-hander Ty Blach also made the roster as a long reliever, replacing Steven Okert, and Bochy pointed to Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS as the reason. The Giants won that game in 18 innings, receiving six scoreless relief innings from long man Yusmeiro Petit.
Finally, the Giants took backup outfielder Gregor Blanco over Jarrett Parker, valuing the versatility of Blanco as a defender and baserunner over Parker’s power.
Other guy – Bochy had strong praise Friday for Hendricks, the Cubs right-hander who led the majors this season with a 2.13 ERA.
“He’s a (Greg) Maddux-type pitcher,” Bochy said. “He’s cerebral, great stuff, great command, moves the ball around well.”
Hendricks this season became the first Cubs pitcher to lead the majors in ERA since 1938 and went 9-2 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 games at Wrigley Field. He said the comparisons to Maddux, the Hall of Famer who began his career in Chicago, are “pretty humbling at first just to be mentioned in the same sentence with him.”
“At the same time, I can see (we’re) the same types of pitchers in a way,” Hendricks said, “using our fastballs to set up our secondary pitches, not having the overpowering velocity, those types of things.”
Start times – Major League Baseball announced the start times for the rest of this NLDS. Game 3 will start at 6:38 p.m. on Monday at AT&T Park. Game 4 will be at 5:40 p.m. on Tuesday, if necessary, and Game 5 would be at 5:40 p.m. on Thursday back at Wrigley Field.