Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija had a rocky and injury-ridden 2018 season, often looking completely out of whack and overmatched. His 6.25 ERA was by far his worst as an every-fifth-day rotational starter. The "Shark" looked more like a flounder as he struggled to throw strikes, inflating his usually stellar walk rate and limiting the effectiveness of his oft-elite strikeout "stuff." However, 2019 appears to be a completely different story — a whole new Shark appears to have emerged.
Heading into Thursday night's game, Jeff Samardzija had had one strong outing and one mediocre outing. His strong start came in the Giants' opening series down in San Diego where the Shark went five innings, giving up one unearned run, and surrendering only three hits. His next opportunity to take the mound came against the streaking Tampa Bay Rays, this past weekend, where he struggled to keep the G-Men in the game against a young but highly-productive Rays offense. Eventually making a somewhat early exit in the fifth inning, Samardzija finished the day with four and two-thirds innings pitched, having given up three earned runs.
Fast forward to Thursday night and a matchup against an always potent Colorado Rockies lineup. The usual suspects–Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, Mark Reynolds, and Ian Desmond–were all present in manager Bud Black's Rockies lineup. Jeff Samardzija, who looked really good this Spring, took the mound for manager Bruce Bochy at Oracle Park. And boy was he good.
In his first win since April of the 2018 season, the Shark looked crisp and strong throughout the entirety of his start. Giving up just three hits and issuing a lone walk, the 6'5'' 240 lb former-Notre Dame star also received a solid defensive to back his effective night on the mound. Samardzija also struck out seven Rockies and held their offense scoreless. A homerun by the recently hot Giants center fielder Kevin Pillar was all the Shark and Bochy's bullpen needed to sink Colorado 1-0.
The Giants' GM Farhan Zaidi and manager Bruce Bochy had hoped that Samardzija would have a bounce-back year in 2019. If his early production is any indication of what can be expected from the 34-year-old right-hander, this season will be an excellent one for the Shark, increasing San Francisco's chances to be successful. A one-two punch of Madison Bumgarner and this version of Jeff Samardzija should intimidate any team they run up against, provided the Giant offense can put some runs on the board.