By allowing five runs on eight hits while striking out eight over 5 2/3 innings during Saturday night's 7-6 defeat to the Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field, the veteran right-hander lost for the sixth time in six starts this month. This rough showing comes on the heels of a July performance where he finished 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA.
Many people have tried to guess as to what has plagued Samardzija during this stretch. Those hypotheses have ranged to being a tick or two off with command and getting too many fly balls to as far-ranging as the right-hander possibly not being 100 percent healthy.
Samardzija quickly dismissed the latter idea during his postgame media session. But a major problem for Samardzija during this entire season has come right from the start.
Kyle Seager's two-run home run two batters in and the three runs scored by the Mariners in the opening frame leave Samardzija with a Major League-high 25 runs and 40 hits given up in the first inning. It's a situation that's hard for Samardzija to explain.
"Yeah, you know, I don't know. I don't really have an answer for that," said Samardzija. "You can't really control when you give the runs up. It's just the same routine I've done for years. It's just a pitch here and a pitch there that we need to improve on and pay attention to and then we go from there."
"Those first innings are rough to get out of. It's not just him," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "We've had that with a few guys, being able to get out of the first."
In August, Samardzija allowed 47 hits and 33 runs over 33 2/3 innings for an 8.82 ERA. He gave up eight home runs, while walking 13 and striking out 31.
The runs and hits stand as the current August low marks in all of baseball. It all begins with keeping the ball down for Samardzija, but regardless of his effort after that first, it really all begins in getting through that opening frame.
"What you need as a starting pitcher is to get into a good rhythm, and it usually starts with the first three outs," said Samardzija, who allowed the first four batters to reach base. "You have to get those first three outs and get your offense in the dugout, and you move on after that. When you put yourself in a hole like that, you're battling the rest of the game, and that's not where you want to be.
"There have been times like this for me when it hasn't been easy: 2009 and 2010 were tough years for me, and that's when you go back to it and remember how you came out of it and what you did to come out of it. It always comes back to the same thing: hard work and commitment and the commitment to be good at the game. That's what it's all about, and I'm going to keep doing the same thing I always do. Work hard and we'll be ready to go in five days."