It didn't look like Jeff Samardzija's purpose pitch to Lorenzo Cain actually accomplished anything but some short-term catharsis during his disappointing White Sox debut on Opening Day, but it might have given him easier questions to answer afterward.
As you might expect after the game, Cain thought Samardzija drilled him intentionally after giving up a solo shot to Mike Moustakas:
"I gave him a look," Cain said. "I wasn't sure he hit me on purpose or not, but once he told me to get down (to first) I was sure he hit me on purpose. It's straight to the point — he hit me on purpose.
"But I'll take beating him the way we did today. Definitely makes up for everything."
While Samardzija issued the standard denial:
"Just hit him. He didn't like it. I didn't like it. I didn't want to hit him. He probably didn't feel good, so he didn't like it. Boys playing baseball. No big deal."
Regarding the rest of his pitching, Samardzija wrote it off as some bad pitching and some bad luck:
"Obviously, the walks hurt, especially when [four of the five] of them score at the end of the game," Samardzija said. "It shows you how important it is to not give free passes. You know they put the bat on the ball, found some green spots and that's the way it goes sometimes. They had it working for them today, but those walks, you've got to cut those out."
Some of that's true, as Salvador Perez's RBI double and Cain's RBI blooper came off pretty good pitches. But the extra baserunners (three walks, two HBPs were a problem), and Samardzija's slider and splitter didn't do a whole lot on Monday, either. It showed in his PITCHf/x data, too: The Royals only swung and missed five times on Samardzija's 92 pitches.
As a result, Samardzija recorded just one strikeout for the first time since June 27, 2012. In fact, he had struck out at least three in all 79 of his starts since that game.
The Royals have something to do with that. They're the hardest team to strike out, and they often make Chris Sale sweat for the same reason (they own the second-highest average and second-lowest strikeout rate of any team to face him more than twice). Sale still owns a lifetime 2.68 ERA against the Royals because he can succeed in a variety of ways.
But since the other White Sox starters aren't Sale, it makes me wonder whether the Sox should consider fielding their best defensive teams against the Royals, similar to the way a basketball team might have to shift to a small lineup when the opponent is having success with three or four guards on the floor. It's never ideal to let the other team dictate play, but since the Sox are 28-47 against Kansas City since the start of the 2011 season, it doesn't seem like altering the lineup and defensive alignment would help Ned Yost's crew more than usual.