MILWAUKEE -- This spring, Jeff Samardzija said his goal was to focus on going deeper into games rather than having another 200 strikeout season. The Cubs starter has done just that. Trouble is, he doesn't have any wins.
Samardzija has posted quality starts in his five outings so far, and gone at least seven innings in each. He lasted 7 1/3 innings in his last start on Wednesday against the D-backs.
He ranks sixth in the National League entering play Sunday with a 1.53 ERA, but is winless. He's the only NL starter with a sub 2.00 ERA who doesn't have at least one win. The Cubs were shut out in two of the games in which he started, and scored one run in another.
"He's pitching really good and should have a couple wins already," catcher Welington Castillo said of the Cubs' Opening Day starter. "We're not hitting really good and not getting a lot of runners and not scoring a lot of runs. I think he's doing all that he can control. He goes to the mound and does his job and focuses on what he can control.
"He's doing good, because he's doing what he's supposed to do," Castillo said. "He's giving us a chance. We just have to score a couple runs for him. I think he's been throwing the ball really good."
Last season, Samardzija reached 200 innings and 200 strikeouts for the first time in his young career. He's not as focused on the K's.
"The longer he goes in the game, we have a better chance [to win]," Castillo said. "He wants to compete, he wants to win. He wants the ball in every situation. He talked to me in Spring Training and said, 'I don't care about the strikeouts, I just want to go longer in games.' I think he's been doing really good. He's been throwing his fastball down in the zone and getting quick outs."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.