Jeff Samardzija allows one hit over eight innings in beating Pirates

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In a pitcher’s duel that included just six hits, the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija was a little better than the Pirates’ Erik Bedard Monday, leading to a 2-0 win for the Cubs.

Andrew McCutchen’s infield single in the fourth was the only hit Samardzija gave up in eight innings of work. The Pirates got another single in the ninth off Carlos Marmol, but they never threatened in the contest.

Bedard was also exceptional, striking out 11 over seven innings. He allowed only one run and two hits, yet he fell to 5-11 for the season.

Samardzija was hoping for a chance at his first career complete game tonight, but manager Dale Sveum said he opted against sending him back out after a 27-minute top of the ninth inning. “I don’t think on his Christmas list right now,” Sveum said afterwards.

Bouncing back from a rough June in which he went 0-4 with a 10.41 ERA, Samardzija is now 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA in four starts this month.

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves