PHOENIX — Jeff Samardzija made two mistakes Friday night. The first came in the fifth, when Samardzija took what he called a brief "mental break" on the mound and Shelby Miller smoked a triple off the wall that led to the first run of the game.
The second mistake happened after the game, when Samardzija was asked how he could look so strong through eight innings despite throwing 115 and 123 pitches in his two previous starts.
“I’ve got to tip my hat a lot to Carl (Kochan) and Rags (Dave Righetti) for getting my body right and getting my head right,” Samardzija said.
It wasn’t long before Samardzija realized he had just credited the beloved strength coach who has become a target for players after good wins.
“One time … this is it,” he said, smiling. “After this, it’s going to be his fault.”
Whatever Kochan does with Samardzija in the weight room is working. The former football star has always been an innings-eater, but he has taken a leap with the Giants, throwing at least 7 2/3 innings in five of his last seven starts.
Samardzija said it’s simple: He’s just following the lead of Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. The last four times through the rotation, the three have gotten three sweeps. Samardzija and Cueto have five wins, Bumgarner four.
“You’ve got to keep pace, right?” Samardzija said. “It’s awesome when you’ve got guys in front of you doing that and showing you the way. You don’t want to let them down. You want to keep the ball rolling.”
Manager Bruce Bochy said he didn’t want to push Samardzija any further than the 112 pitches he threw. He was thrilled to even get that many from his No. 3 starter.
“These guys are horses, and we’ve been riding them pretty hard,” he said of his top three. “Jeff, he’s been solid since Day 1. We worked him hard the last game and here he is going out here and giving us eight innings. It’s pretty impressive ... You have to look after him, but he’s so strong. You watch his stuff and it wasn’t dropping off (late in the game). He takes care of himself. He’s a horse.”
Samardzija cruised through most of his night, keeping the Giants in it on a night when they hit into a season-high five double plays. Joe Panik finally broke the game open in the sixth, following back-to-back singles from Angel Pagan and Denard Span with his fifth homer of the season.
Panik had never swung 3-0 in the big leagues, but he was given the green light and he said he looked for a ball middle-in. His goal was simply to put it in play and pull it, allowing Pagan to score from third and Span to reach third with one out. Instead, Panik crushed a 91 mph fastball from Miller just inside the foul pole. Asked about swinging 3-0, he smiled.
“I can’t draw on past experiences …” he said.
Panik explained that he didn’t want to let Miller back into the count, so he decided to jump on a 3-0 pitch. The homer was the second in as many nights for a player not known for his power. What’s gotten into Panik?
“Geoff Head. He’s our sports scientist,” he deadpanned. “He was in the weight room with me last night when I was lifting. It it was Carl, that might have been a double.”
--- Never underestimate the Baseball Gods. A day after Santiago Casilla blew up on the mound, Bochy was holding a two-run lead in the ninth, and naturally, Jake Lamb was due up first. Lamb faced Javier Lopez on Thursday, setting Casilla off. This time it was Josh Osich who got the assignment, and Matt Duffy (who had a very, very nice defensive game) came over from his shifted position to scoop a grounder and get the out.
Bochy then called on Casilla, who looked filthy while striking out both batters he faced. The save was his 100th with the Giants, and the outing was a reminder that — despite some recent issues and blown saves — Casilla has mostly been at his best this season. He currently has a 1.84 ERA and 0.89 WHIP.
“It was good to get Casilla back out there, for his psyche,” Bochy said. “It’s good for him to get the save. (The confrontation) is behind us and he goes out and gets two big strikeouts.”
--- Bochy and Samardzija both thought Miller’s first career triple might have been a blessing in disguise. He wasn’t the same guy in the sixth, and the Giants opened the inning with three straight hits, including Panik’s homer.
In the moment, though, Samardzija was livid that he had given up a triple to the opposing pitcher. “It really fired me up,” he said. He allowed just two more hits, both singles.
--- A local reporter asked Samardzija a winding question about pitching at Chase Field. He smiled.
“I usually hate it, to tell you the truth,” he said.