- Associated Press - Saturday, April 5, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs are picking up where they left off last season.

The right-hander struck out eight in seven innings, and held the Phillies to two runs and six hits. The Cubs put ten hits on the board and went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position lost 2-0 to Philadelphia on Saturday.

“I see these guys working every day, I know what they’re doing,” Samardzija said of his teammates. “If it were a different situation, if I thought these guys were being lazy or this or that, obviously it’d be different. But these guys come to work every day, doing everything we can. It’s early in the season, we’re going to keep going, keep pushing and figure this out.”

The Cubs, who were shut out for the second time in five games this season, are already 4 for 40 with runners in scoring position this season. That’s even grimmer than last year’s season-long .218 mark.

“I do think you have to be relaxed and know that the pitcher’s on the ropes a little bit,” first-year manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s something that you talk about and see if it starts to take hold, the understanding of those particular types of situations so that guys can be a little bit more relaxed.”

The Cubs were able to get runners on base against Phillies’ starter Cliff Lee, but failed to deliver the knockout blow.

Lee (2-0) allowed 10 hits and had just one 1-2-3 inning. But it never felt as if he was in trouble. He worked on the edges of both sides of the plate and kept the Cubs hitters off balance. Four of his six strikeouts were called third strikes.

“I had to battle a little bit,” Lee said. “They got their fair share of hits, but I was able to make pitches when I needed to. Seven innings, no runs, I’ll take that every time.”

One person Samardzija (0-1) couldn’t figure out was Chase Utley. Utley went 3-for-3 and homered for the second day in a row.

“Obviously if we can get Utley out or if he can throw me a bone and get himself out, that’d be great,” Samardzija said. “He’s a heck of a player. Situations like that against good teams, you need to be aware of which guys are hot and who their go to guys are and he’s definitely that for that team. We’ll remember that for next time.”

Utley ensured that Lee would take the mound with a lead when he cranked a 1-1 fastball from Samardzija into the right-field bleachers for a two-out solo home run in the top of the first inning. It was Utley’s second homer of the season. Utley also scored in the fourth on Dominic Brown’s single to extend the Phillies lead to 2-0.

With Lee painting the corners, the two-run advantage seemed huge. The Cubs’ managed two hits in each the first, third and seventh innings, but couldn’t produce a big hit to break through - just like things have gone so far this season.

NOTES: The Cubs confirmed that RHP Carlos Villanueva will make his scheduled start in Sunday’s series finale. Villanueva’s status was in question because he used in relief twice during the opening series in Pittsburgh. He was losing pitcher in both, meaning he’ll take the mound for his first start with a 0-2 record and a 13.50 ERA. A.J. Burnett (0-0, 1.50) will start for the Phillies. The veteran RHP allowed one run in six innings in his first start of the season. … Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins was back in the lineup after missing the previous two games when he returned to Philadelphia for the birth of his second child, a daughter named Logan Aliya. … Utley’s double in the eighth inning was the 300th of his career, which is eighth on the Phillies career list.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide