PITTSBURGH -- Against the backdrop of the imminent trading-deadline departure of Opening Day starter Ryan Dempster and rumors circling a dozen other teammates, Jeff Samardzija Monday night showed again what the Cubs have in mind for the next few years.
``Pretty impressive. That was no doubt the best stuff he's had,'' manager Dale Sveum said after Samardzija came within an infield hit of taking a no-hitter through eight innings -- and a long top of the ninth from a chance at a complete game.
The only hit Samardzija allowed was Andrew McCutchen's infield hit to first baseman Anthony Rizzo on an extreme shift, with Samardzija hesitating just long enough breaking from the mound to allow McCutchen to beat it. He retired the next 13 straight.
``That's on me,'' said Samardzija, who improved to 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA in four July starts after a rough June.
``That would have been interesting,'' Sveum said of how his ninth-inning decision could have been reshaped. ``Obviously I would have sent him back out there if he would have covered first base.''
As it was, Samardzija would have had the chance to go back out in the ninth -- at 95 pitches -- if the Cubs hadn't sent seven men to the plate in the ninth, forcing a pitching change along the way.
``Twenty-seven minutes,'' Sveum said. ``Just too long to wait. ... I don't think I'm on his Christmas list right now.''
Samardzija was still reaching the upper-90s with his fastball in the eighth inning and cruising.
``He's still on my Christmas list,'' he said. ``Just not tonight. Skip's been great all year. We played great as a team. it's not all about what a starting pitcher does.''
Besides, this is a temporary issue, Sveum said, as the Cubs keep a close watch on Samardzija's workload during this first full season as a big-league starter.
``He's a horse,'' Sveum said. ``Obviously things will change after this year as far as all the innings and worrying about it and all that stuff. I know he doesn't get too happy about it but he knows the issues going in. but he's proven to everybody what he is, is a starting pitcher.
``He's figuring all this out. To have an outing like that against the hottest team in all of baseball swinging the bats is pretty incredible.''