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Cardinals Dominate Pricey Human Hitting Machine, Jeff Samardzija, 7-4

The Cardinals crush 4 home runs off the Giants' third starter, who was cruising until he wasn't.

After homering off of Jeff Samardzija, Aledmys Diaz transfers the kinetic energy from Jeff Samardzija's fastball into Stephen Piscotty ahead of Piscotty's home run off of Jeff Samardzija.
After homering off of Jeff Samardzija, Aledmys Diaz transfers the kinetic energy from Jeff Samardzija's fastball into Stephen Piscotty ahead of Piscotty's home run off of Jeff Samardzija.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Giving up home runs is Jeff Samardzija's game. Sure, teams wanted him during the offseason because he's got the stuff, a track record of staying healthy, and the tantalizing ceiling of Cy Young-caliber talent, but they all knew that the drag coefficient of his talent was dingers.

Heading into tonight's game, he'd allowed for his career 1 home run per 9 innings. This season, he's been better than that. 0.7/9 innings. But, again, that was heading into the game. After tonight's loss (you know, the one you just watched, wherein HE GAVE UP 4 HOME RUNS IN, LIKE, 3 PITCHES), in 81 innings, Samardzija's allowed 9 home runs. See? This is what he does.

The Giants went into Busch Stadium, dared to win the first game of a three-game series by holding the Cardinals' potent offense to just one run, then built a 4-0 lead thinking that Jeff Samardzija on the mound in control through 4 innings would be enough to lead to a series win. Oh, how the Baseball Gods disabused them (and us) of that notion. It all happened so fast, but it shouldn't have been unexpected.

It's the second time he's surrendered 4 home runs in a game (the last time coming in 2013 against the Angels). "Surrender" is the perfect word to describe what happened, too, because there was literally nothing major league quality about anything he did after the 4th inning. And it is the Cardinals' genuine pleasure to make a pitcher look like he doesn't belong in the big leagues. They really take pride in putting on a show. Perhaps they didn't expect Samardzija to give them such great material to work with, though.

If you go back and look at the game footage, the four home runs were all fastballs on the same plane: letter-high to the hitter. They either leaked into the lefty hitter's wheelhouse or sat right in the middle of the plate to Aledmys Diaz (whose ferocious swing and equally strong reaction after the home run even pumped me up, and I would rather be eaten alive by Guy Fieri than cheer for the Cardinals). But he has stuff. And he typically has control of his pitches. It's that other thing, though, perhaps the most important thing... command of the strike zone. But maybe Jeff Samardzija's brain interprets instructions different from most pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball. Maybe that's his problem. For example:

  • Maybe Jeff Samardzija thinks a "get it in" fastball means he has to get that fastball into the seats.
  • Maybe Jeff Samardzija thinks throwing strikes means throwing only pitches that the hitter thinks are strikes.
  • Maybe Jeff Samardzija has internalized the idea of Three True Outcomes in an unhealthy way.
  • Maybe Jeff Samardzija thinks a "power fastball" is powered by the power of the hitter's swing.

Now that that's out of the system, let's focus on the positives: he drove in an RBI. Giants pitchers have now driven in 20 runs this season, the most in baseball. So, you know, DELETE THE DH.

It was a nice duck snort to the opposite field, too. Michael Wacha was able to keep the hitters off balance from pitch to pitch, but when Joe Panik or Brandon Crawford either guessed right or recognized the spin, they did some damage. Save Joe Panik's hard-hit double in the first, the majority of the quality contact against Wacha led to opposite field hits.

The offense didn't look overmatched through 5 innings and Samardzija didn't look like he was in over his head through the first 4 innings. Sometimes, Jeff Samardzija will be the brilliant Shark. Other times, he will be Sharknado. And sometimes, a baseball team cruises through half a game only to hit a bump in the road and basically die right there on the field.

For the rest of the game, the Giants hit the ball right at Cardinals' defenders. Plenty of solid contact, but absolutely nothing happening. It was as if the team's fortunes swapped places. It was so stark

The Cardinals are a tremendously more powerful team than the Giants can ever hope to be and they were able to capitalize on Samardzija's mistakes with that power. The Giants were able to capitalize on Wacha's mistakes, too, it's just that without Pence or Pagan and last year's Duffy and Panik and any other year's Buster Posey and Brandon Belt, the punishments they could mete out were limited to the baseball equivalent of timeouts in the corner and stepping on a comical number of rakes.

~ ~ ~

Nah. He just sucks right now, Marty. Aledmys Diaz and Matt Adams' high testosterone braggadocio and boldness in the second half of this game didn't come from knowing that they had caught Samardzija's move, it's that they were feeling invincible because they had killed him in the baseball way. Total domination.

Ultimately, a severe beatdown by the Cardinals is to be expected. It's June. There's no joy for the Giants in this month. It's Jeff Samardzija against a home run hitting lineup. The Giants counter with very little pop in theirs. The killer, of course, is blowing a 4-0 lead, but when all that's left is the fall, it's perhaps unfair to ourselves to fixate on specifics.

18 wins in their last 25 games still sounds really nice. When we're saying 18 wins in their last 30 that will... you know... that'll... it'll be okay. 18 wins in their last 36? Just shrug and say, "June."

Tomorrow, the Giants counter the Cardinals' multiple haymakers with {checks schedule} Jake Peavy on... {checks calendar} Sunday Night Baseball. This is a recipe for a series loss, right? Maybe. But in this case, I think not. For one thing, it's unlikely we'll see Jake Peavy give up 4 home runs as quickly as Jeff Samardzija did, and I'm sure the Giants' slappy offense will be able to scratch and claw for a run or two. Yeah, you can feel that 2-1 victory already.

~ ~ ~

Sure. Why not? Couldn't hurt. In a sample size of ~700 plate appearances this season, left-handed batters against the Giants have a bit over an .800 OPS against Giants' right handed pitchers. And with Bruce Bochy overclocking Josh Osich due to Javier Lopez's age-related shakiness, any left-handed relief will be welcome. It's unlikely that the Giants have any sort of prospect package that would interest the Yankees, even if Bobby Evans & co. were willing to empty the top shelf. No matter what, though, Andrew Miller couldn't have prevented tonight's loss from happening.

It was Jeff Samardzija's destiny.