Jeff Samardzija nearly goes distance in Cubs win

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Jeff Samardzija was hitting 97 mph on the gun in the ninth inning Sunday and nearly went the distance in a 4-3 victory over the Nationals.

Samardzija appeared to have the third out in the ninth in a 4-1 game, but Starlin Castro committed a throwing error on Ryan Zimmerman’s grounder to short. Manager Dale Sveum stuck with him after a visit to the mound, but Adam LaRoche followed with a two-run homer, necessatating a Carlos Marmol appearance after all.

Marmol walked Jayson Werth, putting the tying run on base, before getting Xavier Nady to pop out foul to end it.

It was the first save for Marmol, who took a loss and a blown save in the Cubs’ first two games of the season.

Samardzija, though, was the story. Making his first major league start since 2010, he struck out eight and walked none. He entered the ninth at just 90 pitches, giving Sveum the luxury of sending him back out. He ended up throwing 110 pitches in the contest. LaRoche’s homer was just the fourth hit he allowed.

The Cubs haven’t shown much offense yet and the bullpen was a disaster for two games, but the rotation is shaping up as pretty good or maybe even better if Samardzija proves to be for real.

Red Sox to extend protective netting at Fenway Park in 2018

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The Red Sox are the latest team to extend the protective netting at their ballpark this winter. According to a statement by club president Sam Kennedy, the exact dimensions of the netting have yet to be determined, but it will likely stretch “all the way to Field Box 79, down the left field line and then all the way down to almost Canvas Alley in the Field Box 9 area.”

Fenway Park received additional protective netting prior to the 2016 season, when the netting behind home plate was lengthened to the home and visitor dugouts. Per Kennedy’s statement, the current expansion should cover everything but the outfield corners, making it nearly impossible for a line drive foul to reach fans in the lower boxes.

After a toddler sustained serious injuries from a 105-MPH foul ball to the face at Yankee Stadium last September, over half of all MLB teams decided to take more extreme preventative measures in advance of the 2018 season. The Brewers, Cardinals, Braves, Astros, Royals, Pirates, Rangers, Padres, Nationals, Mariners, Phillies, Mets, Reds, Blue Jays, Giants, Yankees, Twins and Indians are among the organizations to address the issue over the last several years, while others have yet to take significant action.