It's not terribly uncommon for a pitcher to be among the top 10 in strikeouts and walks in the same season. Texas Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish achieved this distinction last season, Washington Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez was close, and San Francisco Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum is no stranger to these results. This season Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija and Cleveland Indians right-hander Justin Masterson are on path to join the list, but more outings like Monday's will cause Samardzija to fall short in one of the categories. This is a good thing. Samardzija fanned five and issued zero walks in his complete-game victory over the Nationals, hopefully signaling he's back on track.
Samardzija has struggled with command this season, especially since the All-Star break, entering Monday with a 5.09 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in those six starts. On Monday, the Samardzija of 2012 returned, as the Nationals were 2-for-18 on at-bats ending with a pitch in the upper half of the strike zone, and he averaged 3.3 pitches per plate appearance, one of his most efficient outings of 2013. Only one of the six hits he allowed went for extra bases, a solo home run by Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, and Samardzija registered just his third walk-free outing of the season. He walked four Cincinnati Reds in his previous start, after opening August by issuing five free passes against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Monday's version, in which he threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of 32 hitters, was considerably cleaner.