PITTSBURGH – Jeff Samardzija knew about the reports that had his teammate and friend Ryan Dempster on the verge of being traded to the Atlanta Braves as he got ready to take the mound Monday night for the Chicago Cubs.
Samardzija, however, had no problem keeping his focus, giving up one hit over eight innings, and Alfonso Soriano hit two run-scoring doubles as the Cubs cooled off the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0.
“I could give you a long list of things that (Dempster) has done to help me become a major league pitcher,” Samardzija said. “He’s been a great teammate and a great friend and we all love his veteran presence on a young pitching staff. However, trades and things are out of our control.”
Dempster was still in a Cubs uniform Monday night despite reports that the team had agreed to a trade that would send him to Atlanta.
The pitcher declined comment and Cubs assistant general manager Randy Bush said: “There is nothing to report.”
Dempster has the right to refuse any deal.
A message posted Monday on the Twitter account for Dempster’s foundation read: “THERE IS NO TRADE don’t know where this info came from!”
Dempster is 5-4 with a major league-best 2.11 ERA in 15 starts, making him one of the most attractive pitchers on the market before the July 31 deadline for making trades without waivers. His contract expires after this season, and the fifth-place Cubs entered Monday 18 games below .500.
Samardzija pitched like an ace on Monday, though, as the only hit he allowed was a fourth-inning infield single to Andrew McCutchen, the major leagues’ leading hitter with a .373 average. The ball ricocheted off Samardzija.
“McCutchen is really fast and your first reaction is to stop after taking a couple of steps toward the bag if you feel you have no chance,” said Samardzija in explaining why he was late to cover first base as McCutchen easily beat first baseman Anthony Rizzo’s throw. “I would have hated if had cost us a no-hitter, though. We’ll probably have (pitchers’ fielding practice) every day for a month after that.”
Samardzija (7-8) struck out five and walked one in ending Pittsburgh’s five-game winning streak.
He was pulled after throwing 99 pitches as Cubs manager Dale Sveum decided to not to give the 27-year-old a shot at his first career complete game.
“I know he’s not on my Christmas list but I wasn’t letting him go back out there after sitting for 27 minutes,” Sveum said. “I couldn’t let that happen. I know I’m not on his Christmas list because of it but he’s in his first (major league) season as a starter and we’re not going to overextend him.”
Samardzija smiled when asked if he might still buy Sveum a present in December.
“He’s off my list for tonight but that’s all,” Samardzija said. “(Sveum) has been great all year. He has all our backs and I know he’s looking out for my best interests.”
Soriano provided two big one-out hits, scoring Starlin Castro both times, as Chicago ended its 28-inning scoreless streak that stretched to the second inning of last Friday’s game at St. Louis. The Cardinal completed the sweep with two shutouts.
“It was a bad weekend for all of us, so it was nice to get going in the right direction again,” Soriano said.
McCutchen, who walked in the first inning, was the only Pirate to reach base until Josh Harrison led off the ninth inning with an infield single off closer Carlos Marmol, who retired the next three hitters for his 12th save.
“Sometimes you just get shut down,” McCutchen said. “It’s happens to the best of teams and it happens to the worst of teams,”
Soriano’s double to center in the fourth inning off Erik Bedard (5-11) came after Castro drew a leadoff walk. In the eighth, Soriano doubled to right-center off Tony Watson after Castro led off with a single.
Bedard (5-11) allowed one earned run and two hits in seven innings while walking two and striking out 11.
“Boy, he got into a rhythm sometime between the second and third inning,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Bedard. “It was fun to watch him go to work, too, with the fastball-curveball-changeup combination. But the breaking ball became very effective, so a very well-pitched game by both starters, very well-pitched.”
Beside the fourth inning, the Cubs had just two baserunners against Bedard. Reed Johnson walked to lead off the game and Geovany Soto hit a two-out single in the seventh inning. Both were left stranded at first base.
The Pirates lost for just the fifth time in their last 26 home games. They entered the day a half-game behind Cincinnati in the NL Central.
NOTES: Sveum said RHP Matt Garza would “probably not” make his scheduled start Friday against St. Louis. Garza left his start last Saturday at St. Louis after three innings because of cramping in his right biceps. Sveum and Garza both believe a stint on the DL stint will be avoided. ... Chicago LHP Paul Maholm (8-6, 4.09) will face Pittsburgh RHP James McDonald (10-3, 2.93) on Tuesday night. Maholm, who spent the first seven years of his career with the Pirates, is 4-0 with a 0.89 ERA in his last five games, including four starts, while McDonald is on a career-best five-game winning streak.