Samardzija gives up pair of homers; Cubs rally
Allows four runs, walks three over 3 2/3; Jackson homers, drives in five
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It isn't Opening Day just yet, but the Cubs and Royals each had their Opening Day starters on the hill Saturday, and Kansas City's James Shields won the battle of the aces handily.
In the Royals' 6-5 loss at Surprise Stadium, Shields was in midseason form, striking out 10 over six dominant innings. He fanned two Cubs hitters in each of the first five frames, and allowed only a weak infield hit when second baseman Johnny Giavotella stumbled trying to make a tough play.
"I was just throwing strikes, attacking the zone. I was getting them in a swing mode right out of the gates -- pitching strike one," Shields said. "When you pitch strike one, you get them in a swing mode, then you can kind of mess with them a little bit as far as mixing your pitches up. And when you get on the same page with your catcher and you're throwing strikes, that's what happens."
Shields outdueled Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who lasted 3 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks. A day after being named Chicago's Opening Day starter, Samardzija struggled to command the zone, throwing 49 of his 87 pitches for strikes.
"He's a top-of-the line guy," Samardzija said of Shields. "Watching him, all of his pitches, everything was down in the zone, in the dirt, swinging over the top."
The Royals opened the scoring in the bottom of the first when Jarrod Dyson, who has notched just three career regular-season home runs, hit a moonshot to right field. Dyson saw a 1-1 fastball on the inside half and launched it over the Cubs' bullpen and over the bermuda grass behind it, too.
The Royals scored two more runs against Samardzija when Giavotella hit a two-run homer into the left-field bullpen in the bottom of the third. They would load the bases later in the frame, but Samardzija ended a seven-pitch battle against Mike Moustakas by getting him to fly to center.
"Obviously, we got hurt up in the zone with fastballs," Samardzija said. "The two homers, that's what it was -- straight balls up in the zone. We'll work around that, get that ball down and get that sinker going. They came out swinging the bats, and it kind of put me on my heels."
Giavotella added another RBI in the fourth with a sacrifice fly. Cubs left fielder Justin Ruggiano made a nice leaping catch at the warning track to limit the damage.
Brett Jackson got the Cubs on the board in the eighth inning with a three-run homer off Kansas City's Jon Rauch. Brian Fletcher added the final tally for the Royals with a home run off of Marcus Mateo in the bottom of the eighth.
In the ninth, Marco Hernandez singled in a run and Jackson drove in two more off Kansas City's Tim Collins to give the Cubs the comeback victory.
Up next: The Cubs will play split-squad games Sunday, with Chris Rusin getting the start in Las Vegas against the Mets, and Travis Wood facing the Indians at Cubs Park in Mesa, Ariz.. Wood is set for the rotation, and will be slotted second, while Rusin is battling for a spot. In Rusin's last outing, he held the Giants hitless over three innings. The Cubs-Indians game will be broadcast on MLB.TV and on an exclusive, free cubs.com audio webcast. Both games will start at 3:05 p.m. CT.