Why Jeff Samardzija Was Pulled Early During Interesting Sequence for Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy fell on the sword Saturday, taking the blame for a grand slam that provided most of the damage in a loss to the Yankees. 

Bochy felt he stuck with Derek Holland a batter too long, and two days later he made a preemptive move with fellow veteran Jeff Samardzija. The league leader in innings two years ago, Samardzija had thrown just 79 pitches in five shutout frames when he was lifted. This was a decidedly new-school moment for the Giants, who have talked extensively over the past month about limiting the staff's exposure to a lineup a third time. 

"There were a lot of variables that came into play," Bochy said later. "For me, it was a no-brainer."

Bochy took his shot, and the bottom of the fifth and top of the sixth proved be one of the more fascinating sequences of the season.

Samardzija has been a workhorse throughout his career, but this spring the Giants told him to go harder for fewer innings. From the day Samardzija reported, it was made clear to him that he would not get anywhere close to the 200-inning line that has always been a benchmark. 

But there are times when the plan is tested, and Bochy faced that in a scoreless game. Samardzija had another inning in his arm but his spot was due up second in the bottom of the fifth. Initially Steven Duggar stood in the on-deck circle, ready to advance No. 8 hitter Gerardo Parra if he reached. When Parra grounded out, Tyler Austin stepped in for Samardzija and singled to right. 

"It's always tough because you feel good and you want to go out there and just do it for the team, but there are different situations and there will be the right time for it, and just tonight wasn't it," Samardzija said. "If we would have had a couple more players to the plate and I would have hit the inning before, we go back out there for another inning. If we score a couple runs, I go out there for another inning. 

"But just in a zero-zero tie game, in a big game after losing three (to the Yankees), we needed to win, so we were doing anything we needed to put a run across."

The proactive move should have paid off. Joe Panik followed Austin's single with a walk, moving the go-ahead run to second as Samardzija stood in the dugout with his hands on his hips.

Yangervis Solarte turned on a changeup and smoked it towards right, but Max Muncy made a diving catch. When Brandon Belt struck out, the inning was over and Bochy turned to his bullpen, having come an inch or two short of grabbing the lead. 

"It really was the move to make," Bochy said. "Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. You hope that if it doesn't work the team picks everyone up, and they did that in a big way."

Not immediately, though. 

Instead of letting Samardzija face the top of the order -- and lefties Joc Pederson and Cory Seager -- a third time, Bochy turned to Tony Watson, his left-handed specialist. Watson is off to a slow start in that role this season, and Pederson and Justin Turner singled. Cody Bellinger bounced a grounder just past Panik to give the Dodgers the lead in the top of the sixth. 

The Giants would rally back, with Evan Longoria's bases-clearing double proving the difference in a 3-2 win. Samardzija's night was long over by that point, and you could tell after the win that there was still some disappointment about being pulled earlier than expected. 

Samardzija has been open about his distaste for some of the way the game is now played, and the Giants are walking a tightrope. Two years ago, Samardzija might have pitched into the eighth. Two years from now, Farhan Zaidi's hand-picked manager may almost never let a starter face a lineup a third time. 

Here in April of 2019, Bochy pulled the plug after five. It didn't immediately work, but the process was sound, and the Giants ultimately got the win. 

"That's just the way the chips fell today," Samardzija said. "We won the game and the boys played really hard and Longo came up with a big hit, so here we are, and we have a chance to go out tomorrow and win a series."

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