ATLANTA -- It was Mother Nature's turn to make sure Jeff Samardzija would remain winless.
A 1-hour, 7-minute rain delay eventually prevented Samardzija from extending his effective six-inning, 69-pitch stint Saturday night.
While Samardzija's effort -- his first following a career-high 126-pitch performance -- was deserving of a victory, a recurring lack of offense was enough for Samardzija to depart without a victory for his eighth consecutive start.
Samardzija did his best to hide the latest frustration as the Braves scored twice off reliever Brian Schlitter in the seventh inning for a 2-0 victory that handed the Cubs their sixth loss in their last seven games while dropping them 11 games below .500 for the first time this season.
This also marked the fifth time the Cubs have been blanked, and the third time with Samardzija on the mound. They had just six hits and the Braves notched 12 strikeouts.
"I understand the situation," Samardzija replied when asked if the lack of victories and run support were wearing on him. "I understand how things go. Baseball is a funny sport. ... Usually (it) comes around in the end and it all evens out.
"You keep pitching, keep doing your work. You see these guys doing their job so you keep going. It should be great."
But the question for Samardzija is when, with the Cubs failing to sustain any semblance of success or a productive offense with the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline ready to cast a long shadow.
"He's actually showing he's not thinking about anything other than giving you a really good performance," manager Rick Renteria said. "My solace is this guy is being the ultimate professional in attacking (his job)."
"As far as not coming out with victories, every time he goes out he might not have a victory at the end of the day in that column. But he's accumulating them in different ways. And that goes a long way with his teammates.
"And his teammates are just as frustrated with themselves not being able to do things for him. It doesn't go unnoticed. And they know. The more people talk about it, the more they put pressure on themselves to do something."
The rain fell shortly after Samardzija completed the second inning and he showed no signs of fatigue from his last start with a 95 mph fastball. Samardzija threw about 30 pitches in the bullpen while wearing his running shoes during the rain delay, so he knew any argument to stay in would be moot after completing a stressful sixth inning that lowered his ERA to 1.45 -- the second best mark in the majors.
"I felt good and could have gone back out (for the seventh inning), but we agreed that it was a long rain delay," said Samardzija, who used a cut fastball effectively and limited the Braves to two hits while striking out seven.
But the offense failed to support Samardzija. Starlin Castro doubled to start the second but was left stranded. Ryan Kalish led off the fourth with a single and advanced to third on Anthony Rizzo's single. But Rizzo tried to advance to second before shortstop Andrelton Simmons took the cutoff throw and helped nail Rizzo in a rundown.
The miscue changed the complexion of the inning as Kalish was stranded on third. Rizzo also grounded into a double play to end the sixth, snapping a streak of 125 at-bats without grounding into a double play.
"(Rizzo) has got to make sure he can still get back from wherever he's at," Renteria said of the base running gaffe. "But he knows that."
(c)2014 Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services