Jeff Samardzija was impressed by what he saw from Jacksonville's Clayton Kershaw on Thursday night. He probably had plenty of admirers of his own after outdueling the Dodgers' prized left-hander.
Samardzija allowed four singles and a walk while fanning five over seven scoreless frames in the Tennessee Smokies' 2-0 win over the Jacksonville Suns.
The 23-year-old Cubs right-handed project allowed a one-out single in the second and single hits in the fifth, sixth and seventh. He struck out Juan Gonzalez swinging with his 80th pitch of the night to end the seventh and his night.
"I was throwing the sinker early and often in the count," said the former Notre Dame All-American wide receiver. "I had good command and worked in some of my other pitches as the game went on."
In 26 starts last season between Class A Advanced Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, Samardzija pitched into the seventh only three times and completed that frame just once.
"I have a little different approach this year," he said. "I don't mind letting the hitters hit the ball. You got to have confidence in the guys behind you."
Relievers Matt Avery and Chris Shaver each recorded one out and Michael Cooper completed the five-hitter with a four-out save, his second of the year.
Kershaw (0-2), the seventh overall pick of the Dodgers in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, had a solid start. The 20-year-old southpaw yielded two runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings. He struck out a season-high eight, including Samardzija twice.
"He got me a couple times," Samardzija laughed. "It was good to get a chance to see him throw from the batter's box. He's got some pop on his fastball."
Kershaw, rated the fourth-best prospect by MiLB.com, went a combined 8-7 with a 2.95 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 25 starts between Class A Great Lakes and Double-A Jacksonville a year ago.
The Smokies (4-3) did all their damage in the bottom of the first. Joe Simokaitis drew a one-out walk and scored on Ryan Harvey's RBI double to center. Kyle Reynolds followed with an RBI single to right. Harvey doubled three times and Reynolds went 3-for-4.
Russell Mitchell notched a couple of hits for the Suns (4-3).