SAN DIEGO — Bruce Bochy had already come to a decision.
Jeff Samardzija, Major League Baseball's leader in pitches thrown, had done enough through eight dominant innings. Bochy didn’t much care that he was ending a run of complete games by handing the ball to his closer.
“I don’t get caught up in that,” Bochy said, smiling. “(Samardzija) did bring that up to me, though.”
After watching Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto go the distance on back-to-back nights, Samardzija wanted to do the same. He didn’t know that the Giants had gone 28 years since a trio of complete games. He just knew that he wanted to match his teammates. That’s life in the clubhouse.
“I was trying to get back out there for sure,” Samardzija said.
Bochy was locked into his decision.
“Boch is going to be in the Hall,” Samardzija said. “I didn’t fight him too hard.”
Santiago Casilla had an eventful ninth but closed out an eighth consecutive win, this one a 3-1 nail-biter over the Padres at Petco Park. Casilla threw the final pitch of a 7-0 road trip, but the starters did just about everything else, and not just on Thursday.
“Our starting pitchers are a big reason for this win streak we’re on right now,” said shortstop Brandon Crawford, who hit a solo homer. “It seems like they’re holding them under three every game.”
The Padres scored three runs total in three games. The Diamondbacks scored seven while losing four to the Giants last week. It added up to the first Giants sweep of a trip seven games or longer in 103 years.
“I’m a little surprised by that, to be honest,” Bochy said. “There have been good Giants teams and as long as we’ve been in existence, I’m surprised.”
The final game of the trip was a relatively smooth one until the final moments, with Joe Panik picking up four hits and the Giants taking advantage of some Padres miscues while scoring once in three separate innings. Samardzija gave up a run in the second and then retired 19 straight, throwing a 96 mph fastball on his 105th and final pitch. The whole trip wasn’t that easy, though, and while it’s easy to forget it after the way this series went, the Giants were mired in drama last week. Casilla fought Bochy’s decision on the mound and then went off post-game, and the Giants didn’t quite know what they had in Jake Peavy and Matt Cain when they flew out of SFO last Wednesday.
[RECAP: Instant Replay: Giants sweep Padres, win eighth straight]
A week later they’re the hottest team in baseball, and the timing couldn’t be better. The Cubs, the best team in baseball since Opening Day, come to AT&T Park for three, starting Friday when Peavy faces reigning Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta.
“We know who we have coming in,” Crawford said. “We’re going to take the same approach against the Cubs as we have on this road trip. That’s taking it one game at a time like we have been doing, and playing good baseball.”
Samardzija, a former Cub, won’t pitch in the series, but he certainly vaulted the Giants into the matchup in style. He pitched through the eighth for the fourth time in nine starts, and he moved into third on the National League leaderboard in innings (Cueto is second and Bumgarner is fifth). Samardzija wanted one more, though.
“We’ve worked these guys pretty good, and especially Jeff,” Bochy said. “I just wanted to give him a break. He’s leading off the (top of the ninth) and Casilla is fresh. I thought it was time to give him a break.”
Samardzija didn’t push Bochy too much. Any regrets only came later, long after Panik had snagged a hot liner for the 27th out. Samardzija said several position players gave him a good-natured hard time about not finishing what he started.
“I’m going to have to keep an eye on them and see if they pull any tricks that are not the most masculine thing in the world,” he said, laughing. “I'll let them know about it.”
That was all in good fun. Samardzija’s new teammates know he has carried an incredible load through a quarter of the season, and they know they’ll need to lean on him down the line. The first-year Giant is looking forward to it, and he’s hoping he looks back on this night not as the one when he missed out on a complete game, but as the one when he saved some bullets.
“We have our eyes on the big picture, and that’s why I don’t mind,” he said. “If I need those 12 or 15 pitches for somewhere down the road, we’ll know we have them in there.”