Jeff Samardzija had Torii Hunter struck out in the first inning. He had fooled him with a tumbling sinker that looked like it had slid under his desperate lunge, only to have it dribble out between Geovany Soto's legs and be called a foul tip. Two batters, and maybe five minutes later it was 2-0 Twins, after Samardzija had blown his two-strike count to Hunter, allowed him to score when he blew an 0-2 count to Joe Mauer for an RBI double, completely fell asleep as Mauer got a running lead and stole third, which allowed him to score on sacrifice fly. Just like that, he was drowning again.
But that was the end of it. From there, Samardizija gave up one more hit and a walk, in a dominating eight-inning performance that is the new frontrunner for his best and most encouraging effort of the year. By the time it was clear that Samardzija had stepped on the Twins' throats, it had been an hour since their last breath.
If not for the obvious breakout performance from one of the potential lynchpins of, hell, the franchise, going forward, this might have been The J.B. Shuck Game. The reserve outfielder, whose inept waving ended Thursday night's comeback attempt, found out during batting practice that he would start in place of the hobbled Avisail Garcia. He doubled his previous season-high of good things done in a game by sprinting home from second to score on Geovany Soto's shocking game-tying double in the fourth, and drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly to center in the eighth.
- Samardzija regularly throws 94 mph with enough tailing action that his fastball can resemble a superpowered slider, and a tumbling splitter that falls off the table. There's only so much shoring up to his command that has to be done before he can start breezing through heavy workloads and racking up 22 swinging strikes in an ight. Samardzija's mechanics looked a mess as late as the third inning, but his stuff is so potent that once he got locked in he finished with absurd totals like 20/28 first strikes thrown, or 83 out of 118 pitches for strikes. Any continued resemblance to this version of this Samardzija is obviously an enormous coup.
- Garcia was a late scratch, and could miss the rest of the Minnesota series with a bad knee he probably should have stopped playing on once he aggravated it. With something slightly resembling an extended opportunity, Shuck displayed what he should theoretically be able to do reliably: make contact, run like the wind on the basepaths, and provide very steady work in the outfield corners.
- Theoretically, the back of the lineup should have some games where they can lead the charge, and I suppose this was it. Alexei Ramirez, Shuck and Soto combined to go 7-11 with all three Sox RBI. The lineup certainly didn't figure out Twins starter Phil Hughes, who mostly glided through seven innings spamming the zone, but his lack of a putaway pitch was glaring when he couldn't stomp out a two-out rally of Shuck and Soto to protect a 2-0 lead. With two strikes on Soto--a disaster at the plate this season interrupted by brief bursts of power--Hughes didn't have many moves beyond trying to dot the corners with a fastball, and got burnt on a hot grounder down the third base line that tied the game. LaRoche led off the two-run fourth with a walk, because of course he did.
- A cool thing about Samardzija going eight innings is that it means there was no gap between him and David Robertson, who is unhittable.
- Jose Abreu extended his hitting streak to 17 games with yet another single, but a wall single, which is the typical mark of a true White Sox power hitter.
Next game is Saturday at 3:10pm CT vs. the Twins on WGN