Shark steps up, plays role of stopper

Shark steps up, plays role of stopper

CHICAGO -- As manager Robin Ventura approached the mound in the seventh inning to talk to Jeff Samardzija on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field, with two Tigers runners on, two out, Ian Kinsler hitting and the White Sox holding a three-run lead, Ventura knew the right-hander could potentially give him a "half yes" when asked if he had enough stuff to get through the frame.

"His was a full yes," said Ventura with a smile following the White Sox 5-2 victory, ending a five-game losing streak and improving the team to 7-3 at home.

"He's going to get a full yes most of the time," said Samardzija, who threw 105 pitches and struck out seven over seven. "So I'm thinking, 'If he wants to take me out, he better just go ahead and put that arm up or else I'm going to give him the yes answer.'"

That answer proved to be exactly what the White Sox needed after one of their worst weeks in recent memory. Samardzija didn't take the easy way out of the victory, though.

Kinsler, who already had two hits, drilled Samardzija with a line drive just below his right elbow. Samardzija recovered to fire a strike to first baseman Jose Abreu, getting Kinsler by about a step. X-rays were negative, and while Samardzija acknowledged taking the line drive was painful, he played it down postgame.

"I'm good," said Samardzija, showing his best example of Chicago toughness. "If [Blackhawks defenseman Brent] Seabrook can stay in the game taking a puck off the face, I can stay in the game with a ball off the arm."

Samardzija allowed six runs in the first inning of his last start Wednesday in a fan-less ballpark in Baltimore, and he gave up a run within four pitches Tuesday night. Samardzija settled down and not only propelled the White Sox to a victory over the American League Central leaders, but he set up a series victory opportunity with Chris Sale pitching Wednesday.

Detroit had its chances, putting two on with two out in the fifth inning and Miguel Cabrera, quite possibly the game's best hitter, at the plate. But Samardzija struck out Cabrera on three pitches, climbing the ladder with three fastballs and getting Cabrera to chase one out of the zone.

"You know every time he digs in [that] box you've got to be at your best," Samardzija said. "I just didn't want to give him anything he could drive, especially with that three-run lead."

In two starts against the Tigers this season, Samardzija has allowed three runs over 15 innings. That's the sort of "full yes" answer the White Sox need to regain their competitiveness, even more so than his seventh-inning response on Tuesday.

"There's certain times during the season when you need to do that and give the confidence to the manager that in the future he can leave you out there if need be," Samardzija said. "But I also have to give him the respect to give him a true answer with how I feel. If I don't feel good, I need to let him know, but I felt good and thankfully he let me stay out there."

"For him to go out and compete and give us that kind of performance, great," Ventura said. "That's what he was brought here to do and it was a big boost for us."

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.