DENVER -- Jeff Samardzija has never been one to worry about his ERA or his record. Don't walk up to him and ask what he thinks about FIP or spin rate.
Samardzija is old school, and for years he has focused above all on being a workhorse and throwing 200 innings for his team. That made it awkward this spring when the Giants said from the start that all they wanted was five-and-dive from the veteran, and he had some issues early in the year when he was limited to five innings just about every time out.
Samardzija laughed Monday afternoon and said he was on Bruce Bochy and Curt Young when they repeatedly pulled him before he reached 90 pitches.
"I probably let them hear about it too much, but when you look back at things and understand that they were looking out for you then, it really feels great as a player," Samardzija said. "That's not necessarily the norm."
Samardzija now sees the big picture. The Giants were worried about a shoulder injury that wrecked his 2018 season, and they slow-played him from the start. But as the weather has warmed, the restraints have come off a bit. Samardzija had thrown 15 innings in his previous two starts and on Monday he went 6 2/3 dominant frames in a 19-2 blowout of the Rockies.
Samardzija did so while looking like the Shark of old. He averaged more than 93 mph with his fastball and ticked above 95 at points. When Samardzija and Buster Posey saw how much his ball was cutting in the bullpen, they ran with it. He estimated he threw 60-70 cutters while limiting the Rockies to two solo homers on a day when the Giants piled up 21 hits on the other end.
Samardzija looked like the 2017 version and said he physically feels like everything is in line.
"I'm really surprised with how strong it's become over the last month or so," he said of his shoulder. "I was expecting to grind all year."
Instead he was getting in and out of the dugout while Rockies pitchers struggled to keep the ball in the yard. On a 91-degree day at Coors Field, the Giants hit two homers and scored five runs in the first. It looked like this would be a shootout, but Samardzija opened with five scoreless frames.
"It was really big for the club so (the hitters) are not out there on the field for a long time," Bochy said. "It was hot. He was really good with his command. To have those nice crisp innings, it was easy to let guys go. He really helped the flow of the game for our guys."
The lineup rewarded Samardzija with an insurmountable lead early on, but he didn't need much. After a rough stretch in June, Samardzija has allowed four runs over 21 2/3 innings in three July starts. He said that all along he felt he was throwing better than the numbers showed.
"I tried to keep my head on straight and understand that it's coming out good and eventually the bounces will go your way," Samardzija said. "And that's exactly what happened. And on top of that we started swinging the bats like crazy and now you're in a situation as a starter where you just don't want to be 'that guy' that ends the streak. You just want to go out there and do your job and kind of not get in the offense's way right now."