Free passes bite Shark in first trip to hill

Right-hander walks three, hits pair

Free passes bite Shark in first trip to hill

KANSAS CITY -- A lack of run support during an Opening Day start does not qualify as a surprise for Jeff Samardzija. Try just three runs scored behind him during 15 scoreless innings over two previous trips to the mound to begin 2013 and 2014 for the Cubs.

So Jose Abreu's solo home run leading off the seventh against Royals starter Yordano Ventura marking the lone White Sox run Monday stands as nothing out of the ordinary. The only difference this time is that the scrappy defending American League champions got to Samardzija at Kauffman Stadium in their 10-1 victory.

Samardzija worked six-plus innings and threw 92 pitches, allowing five runs on six hits, while striking out one and walking three. It was the free passes, of which the White Sox issued five, which bothered the right-hander more than anything else.

"Obviously, the walks hurt, especially when [four of the five] of them score at the end of the game," Samardzija said. "It shows you how important it is to not give free passes. You know they put the bat on the ball, found some green spots and that's the way it goes sometimes. They had it working for them today, but those walks, you've got to cut those out."

There also was a wild pitch that led to a run in the third and two hit batsmen that came at interesting times of the game. Samardzija plunked Alex Gordon with Kendrys Morales on first and one out in the second, after Avisail Garcia was hit by a Ventura pitch in the top of the frame. He then hit Lorenzo Cain in the fifth on the ensuing pitch after Mike Moustakas drove out an opposite-field homer for a 4-0 lead.

The Royals and Cain took umbrage with the pitch at the time. But Samardzija dismissed any controversy after the setback.

"Nothing. Just hit him. He didn't like it. I didn't like it. I didn't want to hit him," Samardzija said. "He probably didn't feel good, so he didn't like it. Boys playing baseball, no big deal."

"They looked miffed. It's baseball," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of the Royals' reaction. "There's frustration to go around for everybody."

Royals hitting coach Dale Sveum managed Samardzija for two years with the Cubs, so he knows what Samardzija likes to do. That knowledge seemed to pay off on Monday, with the White Sox unable to spoil the Royals' American League championship ring ceremony.

"I've got to go back and look and add it all up and see what happened," Samardzija said. "They're looking for a ball out over the plate and we're trying to get some of that plate back and mix in some offspeed pitches, like I said. They found some holes and those walks make you work out of the stretch a little too much.

"You want to be in the windup in a good rhythm and throwing your fastball and working off that. When you don't have that good rhythm going against a good team like that, you're going to be battling all day."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.