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Samardzija winless but clearly the Cubs' ace

Samardzija winless but clearly the Cubs' ace

CHICAGO -- Jeff Samardzija threw a career-high 126 pitches over nine innings Monday night, and Cubs manager Rick Renteria said he may shorten the right-hander's next outing to avoid overworking his ace.

Samardzija, 29, stayed in the game that long because Renteria was trying to get him the win. Samardzija (0-3) finished the ninth, and left with the game tied at 1. The White Sox eventually won, 3-1, in 12 innings.

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"I felt we needed to give him the opportunity to go and do it," Renteria said Tuesday. "Would I do it again? I couldn't tell you, quite frankly.

"His teammates really appreciated what they saw," Renteria said. "Everybody was very excited about it. I couldn't tell you if I'd do it again."

The reason for the push? Samardzija ranks second in the National League with a 1.62 ERA, is tied for second in innings pitched, and has posted quality starts in six of his seven outings. But he is winless.

Samardzija downplayed the high pitch count after the game and said he still felt strong.

"In general, you don't like to see a guy get up that high," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said of the pitch count. "It's a number, and we don't have enough knowledge to know at what number things turn into danger and when they don't. We've tried to focus on pitch stress in the Minor Leagues. It's a lot different to throw pitches with the bases loaded, it's a lot different to throw pitches in high-leverage spots."

The Cubs don't plan on having Samardzija throw 120-plus pitches on a regular basis.

"I don't think I have more concern about 126 in nine innings than I do about 94 pitches in 4 1/3 [innings] and you see that on a fairly regular basis," Hoyer said. "I don't think we have all the answers when it comes to pitch counts. I know Jeff was fantastic last night. He looked really strong late in the game."

Hoyer said he was impressed with Samardzija's two-seam pitch, calling it "unhittable." The pitcher seems unfazed by the lack of W's.

"Hopefully, he realizes you don't need wins in this day and age to be considered a top-of-the-rotation pitcher," Hoyer said. "The wins stat is a dangerous thing. People really focus on it as an assessment of your value. I think we've gotten past that. We've gotten past that when it comes to how we compensate pitchers. We've gotten past that in Cy Young voting with a guy like Felix Hernandez winning the Cy Young.

"Certainly, I don't think there's anyone in baseball who looks at Jeff Samardzija and thinks he's not having a great year despite not having any wins," Hoyer said. "On a personal level, I feel for him. ... Anyone who pitches the way he did last night deserves a win."

The Cubs simply haven't scored many runs for Samardzija, who is tied for fifth in the NL with a 2.16 run support average.

"The way he continues to go out and pitch, I don't think he's worried at the end of the day who's going to get the win or the loss," Renteria said. "I think he's pitching for the Cubs and giving us a chance to win a ballgame. ... He has been stellar, absolutely stellar."

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.

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