The Cubs finally scored a run for Jeff Samardzija

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Ryan Sweeney’s game-tying RBI single in the top of the seventh inning against the Cardinals on Friday night may have seemed innocent, but it ended a rather embarrassing stretch devoid of any run support for starter Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs were shut out with Samardzija on the bump in his first two starts of the 2014 season and entering the seventh inning Friday night (a span of 20 innings). They were also shut out in his final start of the 2013 season, and did not score with him as the pitcher of record in his second to last start either.

The last time they had scored for him entering tonight’s start was on September 17, 2013 when they put up a three-spot in the seventh inning against Brewers starter Marco Estrada. Samardzija put up a zero in the bottom half of the inning and exited.

As for Friday’s start, Samardzija held the Cardinals to one run over seven innings, allowing six hits and striking out four without issuing a walk. He was the pitcher of record when the Cubs scored two more runs in the eighth inning to take a 3-1 lead. Samardzija has pitched well through his first three starts of the 2014 season, currently sitting with a 1.29 ERA.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.