LAS VEGAS -- Cubs Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija out-pitched Rangers fifth-starter candidate Nick Tepesch in a 4-1 victory on Saturday afternoon at Cashman Field.
Tepesch wasn't bad in his fourth outing of the spring. He just couldn't match Samardzija, who held the Rangers scoreless through five innings on three hits and a walk, while striking out three. Samardzija has a 3.68 ERA after his fourth Cactus League start and fifth appearance of the spring.
Samardzija threw about 80 pitches, then got some more work done in the bullpen. The best thing about the outing was that his splitter was working.
"That's a big pitch for me," he said. "That pitch comes along as time goes, and you get a better feel for it."
Each Spring Training outing has been better for Samardzija, who arrived in Arizona knowing for the first time that he would be in the rotation and didn't have to battle for a job.
"It's been nice to be able to take that approach that you don't have to go out the first outing and 'wow' everyone because you're trying to win a job," he said. "It's been a little different approach to Spring Training, but I definitely feel it was my best outing and something to build on."
It seems the right-hander is always lined up to pitch in Las Vegas.
"Unfortunately, I spent a fair amount of time here in Triple-A so I know the mound and the field pretty well and I'm comfortable with the locker room," Samardzija said. "I enjoy coming here pitching, and the atmosphere is outstanding. We always get great support from the fans. It's good to get that feeling of the season."
Tepesch, making his second start and fourth overall appearance of the season, gave up three runs on five hits and a walk while striking out two in five innings. Tepesch now has a 3.46 ERA on the spring and opponents are hitting .250 against him.
Tepesch's biggest problem was letting the leadoff hitter reach base. That happened in four of his five innings. Steve Clevenger's double started off a two-run third and Scott Hairston's second home run of the spring led off the fourth.
"I felt strong the whole game," Tepesch said. "I just didn't get the leadoff guy. That kind of hurts you when you do that."
The Rangers didn't score until the sixth, when Craig Gentry led off the inning with a triple and scored on Mitch Moreland's grounder to first. Joey Gallo, who is from Las Vegas, doubled off the center field wall with two out in the seventh.
Nate Robertson pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the Rangers and has not allowed a run in eight innings this spring.
Up next for the Cubs: Carlos Villanueva will make his third spring start on Sunday when the Cubs' split squad faces the Rangers in Las Vegas at Cashman Field. The other half of the Chicago roster will travel to Phoenix to face the Athletics. Scott Baker, coming back from Tommy John surgery last year, will make his first spring start. The game in Las Vegas will be on WGN Radio; the game in Phoenix will be on WGN and MLB.TV.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less