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.