Samardzija wraps up his 2019 season with a gem
SAN FRANCISCO — Call it whatever you want to call. Doubt. Uncertainty. Skepticism. When his 2018 season ended prematurely due to shoulder inflammation, the San Francisco Giants’ Jeff Samardzija knew there were no guarantees he would ever be the same.
Instead of trying to regain his original form, Samardzija had to free his mind from the questions surrounding his future and adapt.
At the end of the 2019 season, Samardzija proved he could successfully change as he put the finishing touches on a strong comeback year in a 2-1 walk-off win over the Colorado Rockies that ended when rookie Jaylin Davis hit his first career home run.
The former Minnesota Twins prospect acquired at the 2019 trade deadline sent a 416-foot solo blast out to dead center field off Rockies reliever DJ Johnson to secure the Giants’ 38th one-run win of the season.
Davis was hitting .125 entering the at-bat, but a power-hitting prospect who hit 35 home runs in the minors this season made sure he would get on the board before his season ended.
With the help of a rookie hitter, a deserving veteran pitcher felt much better about an outcome that was in doubt all night.
With six shutout innings against Colorado on Wednesday, Samardzija lowered his ERA to 3.52 and wrapped up one of the best seasons of his professional career.
A year after Samardzija made just 10 starts and posted a 6.25 ERA, the right-hander quietly put together an impressive case for the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award. Samardzija may not earn the honor, but simply pitching his way into the conversation is a remarkable accomplishment for a pitcher who was unsure what he had left in the tank.
Gone are the days when Samardzija relied on a 95-mile per hour fastball to overwhelm hitters the first time through the order. After rigorously rehabbing his injured shoulder last offseason, Samardzija realized he needed to reinvent himself and did so with the help of the Giants training and coaching staffs.
In his eighth season as a fulltime starter, Samardzija dropped his sinker usage, increased his cutter usage, nearly abandoned his curveball and threw his four-seam fastball on 26% of his pitches, his highest-rate since 2013 according to Brooks Baseball.
The Giants took the lead on Wednesday in the bottom of the third inning when center fielder Kevin Pillar picked up his 86th RBI of the season with a two-out single to drive in second baseman Mauricio Dubon.