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CIN@CHC: Rizzo hits game-tying opposite-field homer

CHICAGO -- Neither Jeff Samardzija nor the Cubs could get a win Monday night.

The Reds snapped a tie by scoring five runs with two outs in the ninth, highlighted by Devin Mesoraco's grand slam, to post a 6-1 victory over the Cubs. Billy Hamilton doubled and scored in the first inning and delivered a tie-breaking two-out RBI single in the ninth. All of the Reds' runs in the ninth came off Hector Rondon.

"We tried to let [Rondon] work his way through it, and obviously, it didn't work out," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.

Once again, Samardzija didn't garner much run support. He is the only pitcher in baseball to make at least 15 starts and have only two wins, despite a sub-3.00 ERA (now 2.53). The only other pitchers with two wins and an ERA under 3.00 with at least 12 starts are the Padres' Andrew Cashner and the Phillies' Cole Hamels, and both of them have spent time on the disabled list.

Samardzija says he gets frustrated with himself, not the team. It showed in the Chicago third. Darwin Barney doubled, and Samardzija popped up on a bunt attempt, then the pitcher broke his bat over his left leg.

"I learned that probably from my father back in the day," Samardzija said of his technique. "It's just frustrating -- you've got a guy like [Chris] Coghlan, who has been swinging well, [batting] behind you and a leadoff double, and you really want to get that guy over, and [Coghlan] comes up and hits a perfect sac fly. I get frustrated when I don't do my job."

Renteria just smiled when asked about Samardzija's reaction.

"When he takes the mound, he's a pretty competitive individual," Renteria said. "He wears his emotions on his sleeve."

The lack of offense in Samardzija's outings has reached ridiculous numbers. Think about this: In 190 starts with the Cubs, Rick Sutcliffe was shut out 12 times. In 178 starts with Chicago, Kerry Wood was shut out 12 times. In 82 starts, Samardzija has been shut out 12 times, including six outings this year. It looked like Monday would be No. 13.

The Reds took a 1-0 lead in the first on Todd Frazier's RBI triple. Samardzija needed 23 pitches to get through the inning.

"I kind of laugh at myself because two years ago, that inning would've gone a whole lot differently than it did," Samardzija said. "To get out of that first inning with one run, and to get out of the second inning, too, that says a lot and it's a positive for me. It didn't go the way I wanted it to but we got out of it with minimal damage and kept the team in it. The most frustrating thing is when you don't keep your team in it and give them a chance to win the game."

The Cubs went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position through the first five innings, but with one out in the sixth, Anthony Rizzo reached out to belt a ball that appeared more in the right-handed batter's box than over the plate, and launched it into the left-field seats. It was Rizzo's 16th home run, and 13th since April 30, second-most in the National League.

"It's the way [hitting coaches Bill Mueller and Mike Brumley] teach it -- up and away," Rizzo said. "I don't know -- I saw it up, got extended, and got lucky."

Samardzija was pulled after six innings. It was his 12th quality start in 16 outings, but not good enough. He has received one or fewer runs in eight of his 16 starts, and has a 2.82 ERA in those games. Samardzija's success is one of the reasons several teams have scouts trailing him. Samardzija has been able to shrug off the trade rumors.

"He's being a professional," Rizzo said. "I'm sure it's not easy reading where he's going, when he's going, who he's going to, who we're getting if he does get traded. It's just a distraction and not easy, and he's dealing well with all of it."

The Cubs most likely will have October off. What would it be like to pitch in a pennant race?

"I love to pitch in big games," Samardzija said. "I love to pitch in games when I can't sleep the night before -- those days when you're up until three, four in the morning, and you have a day game the next day, you know it's a big game. Those are fun. I've learned over the last couple years that every start is important."

When was the last time Samardzija had a sleepless night prior to a big game?

"That's a good question," he said. "It's happened a few times this year."

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