Jeff Samardzija

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.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.