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.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.