CHICAGO (AP) — A couple of weeks ago, Jeff Samardzija was a symbol of the Chicago Cubs’ struggles when he was winless despite leading the major leagues in ERA.
Now Samardzija has his second win in three starts for a team trying to turn around its season.
Samardzija tossed seven solid innings, Junior Lake hit two home runs and Emilio Bonifacio added a two-run shot as the Cubs extended their winning streak to five with a 5-2 victory over the Miami Marlins on Saturday.
“The best thing as a starting pitcher you can have is consistency — that every time you go out there your coach and your teammates know what you’re going to give them,” Samardzija said. “That’s what I want to do.”
Saturday certainly was a start. Samardzija (2-5) allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings, striking out eight. Pedro Strop got his second save.
Except for his last outing — eight runs in three innings at Milwaukee last Sunday — Samardzija has put up similar numbers all season. The Cubs, though, would always come up short in one phase of the game during his outings, whether it was offense or defense.
During the winning streak, consistent all-around production has been the norm.
“I think everybody’s contributing in some shape or form,” Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. “Junior adding two solo homers there, those are big runs, obviously. There are a lot of different things, a lot of little things. They’re just playing the game.”
Christian Yelich went 2 for 4 with a homer for the Marlins and opened the scoring in the third inning with a solo shot to make it 1-0.
“It was a good swing,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “He keeps battling. He gives you good at-bats. He’s got power. You see it in there. It’s just really just a matter of consistency for him. He keeps having good at-bats. Even though his average is probably not where he would want it, or everyone else would want it, I know he’s going to give me a good at-bat.”
The Cubs went in front in the bottom half of the inning when Samardzija singled and Bonifacio hammered a 3-2 pitch from Miami starter Randy Wolf (1-2) into the left-field bleachers for a 2-1 lead. It was Bonifacio’s first homer since July 30 last season.
“That was great,” Samardzija said. “I got to jog around the bases instead of having to score from first.”
The Cubs stretched the lead to 3-1 in the fifth when Lake hit a long homer into the shrubbery in center field, connecting with a 79 mph changeup on a 2-1 count.
Miami got to 3-2 in the sixth inning when Giancarlo Stanton doubled with one out, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Casey McGehee’s groundout to first base.
The Cubs got a run back in the bottom half when Starlin Castro led off with a double, advanced to third on a fly out and scored when Wolf threw a wild pitch with Mike Olt at the plate.
Lake bumped the lead to 5-2 an inning later when he went deep for the second time in the game — the second multihomer game of his career — on a line drive to left against reliever Chris Hatcher.
“I really love how we’re playing right now as a team in all phases,” Samardzija said. “To win big league ballgames you have to have all three or four phases of the game.
“I love the way we’re swinging it right now, and, as a pitcher, it gives you a lot of confidence to go out and pound the zone.”
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