Sa­mardz­ija wraps up his 2019 sea­son with a gem

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Kerry Crow­ley THE MER­CURY NEWS

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.

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