NEW YORK (AP) - If he could take back a pitch or two, Jeff Samardzija might be headed into the All-Star break having won two straight starts.
Following a lousy month that threatened to undo his progress from the bullpen last season to the rotation, he'll take what he got anyway - another sign of progress.
The Cubs' right-hander put together his second straight strong start, but left a split-finger fastball up that Ike Davis smashed for a two-run homer to help the New York Mets beat the Chicago Cubs 3-1 Saturday.
Jordany Valdespin hit one out for the second day in a row and Dillon Gee pitched one-run ball for eight innings to outduel Samardzija.
``It basically came down to a fastball,' manager Dale Sveum said. ``He tried to get back in the count, guy hit a solo homer, and then a guy actually did a nice piece of hitting. Went down and got a splitty for a two-run homer. But other than that he was pretty dang good.'
Before he won last Sunday, Samardzija hadn't had a start longer than 5 1-3 innings since May 29. He went 1-4 in six starts since then. On Saturday, Samardzija (6-8) allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings for his second straight quality start.
``I really like how the ball's coming out and I mixed my pitches well,' Samardzija said. ``You know, make a mistake there to Davis and leave that splitter up in a 0-2 count. It comes back to haunt you.'
Samardzija hit into a double play on a bunt attempt in the third. With one out, he dropped the ball right in front of the plate trying to sacrifice Luis Valbuena to second. Mets catcher Josh Thole pounced on the ball and threw to Tejada to get Valbuena. Ruben Tejada fired to first to get Samardzija, who was a star wide receiver at Notre Dame.
Gee (6-7) gave up seven hits without a walk and struck out four to keep up a run of strong starts by Mets pitchers. They've gone at least six innings in 19 of the past 21 games, and have an ERA of 3.16.
Bobby Parnell allowed a leadoff double to Anthony Rizzo, but retired the final three batters for his second save, striking out Steve Clevenger on a 101 mph fastball to end it.
``You take two pitches that are closer, the first two pitches, and then you get rung up on that. It's kind of disappointing,' Clevenger said.
One batter earlier, Tejada helped out Parnell by ranging into left field to catch Bryan LaHair's blooper, tumbling to the grass as the Citi Field crowd let out a roar.
``That was one heck of a catch, you know, over his head and going back,' Sveum said. ``It looked like it was going to fall and then he made a quick adjustment at the end.'
Davis' two-run homer to right that bounced off the facing of the second deck in the third inning and Valdespin's solo shot in the second were enough for the Mets to win for the seventh time in 10 games.
``Today he didn't have his stuff at the beginning of the game and as he got deeper he started getting his stuff back,' said Clevenger, who caught Samardzija. ``His velocity's been there. He throws the ball hard throughout the game, consistently. I think it's his breaking stuff, his splitter more. I think he needs to get more a feel for it in the bullpen before the games. That way we have it ready to rock during the game.'
After a miserable start this season that had manager Terry Collins answering questions about sending him to the minors, Davis has seven homers and 28 RBIs in his past 24 games. He still sits sometimes against tough left-handed pitchers, as he did the night before. But he played a central role in the Mets' near comeback that night, with a two-run pinch-hit single that got New York to within a run before a game-ending double play.
Davis has 12 homers and 49 RBIs this season, and has brought his average up to .204.
``At one point this year, I was glad to be over a hundred,' Davis said. ``It's amazing to me that I am hitting .200 and I have that many RBIs.'
The Cubs, who have won eight of their past 12 games only had three hits through the first five innings against Gee a day after they had a season-high 18. They finally broke through in the sixth, when Valbuena hit a leadoff double and David DeJesus drove him in with one out. But Chicago still stranded two more runners that inning and couldn't do anything else against Gee.
Gee's previous longest start this season had been 7 1-3 innings, and he tied a season low with only one earned run.
NOTES: Cubs SS Starlin Castro was back in the lineup after a day off. He spent Friday night's game next to Sveum, who wanted to go over game situations with Castro, who had made some mental mistakes this season and last. Sveum didn't say what questions he posed to the young shortstop, but said of Castro's answers: ``They were good.' ... Castro was thrown out trying to steal second in the first inning, his NL-high 10th time caught stealing this season.
The Associated Press News Service
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