Mesa, Ariz. — The Cubs jumped on Wilmer Flores for six first inning runs and cruised to a 9-5 victory over the Dodgers in an NLCS rematch that featured $126 million pitcher Yu Darvish’s Cubs debut.
The Cubs improved to 8-2-2 this spring.
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Yu da man
Flashing a 95 mph fastball he mixed with a curve, slider and changeup, ex-Dodger Darvish struck out four in a two-inning start to win his spring debut for the Cubs.
The right-hander walked two of the first three he faced and threw two wild pitches that eventually allowed the first one to score. But he settled down to retire the final five he faced, including three strikeouts – throwing 16 of his final 20 pitches for strikes.
“Just a little bit of nerves,” he said.
Ex-Dodger parade to mound
Brandon Morrow, who had a breakout season and dominant postseason as the Dodgers top setup man last year, made his first appearance in a designed slow-burn spring.
zhe gave up a single, followed by two quick outs and a double – an unearned run scoring when second baseman Javy Baez’s errant relay throw caromed off the runner’s helmet into left field.
He retired the next batter on a fly ball. Morrow, who’s fastball reached the upper 90s, said his arm felt great and considered it a good first outing.
Nose for the ball
Center fielder Albert Almora Jr. was forced to leave the game with a bloody nose after cutting off that double in the gap, throwing to Baez and spinning to the ground – but not before his two-run homer highlighted a six-run Cubs first and then adding a leaping catch in the right-center gap after a long run to rob Chris Taylor of extra bases in the third.
Almora, whose nose began bleeding at the start of the inning, was not seriously hurt.
Friends and family plan
With his own personal cheering section in town to watch him play, Javy Baez ripped a two-out, two-run double to left in the first and added a single to left in the third, going 2-for-3 with a stolen base.
And the error.
Ben there, done that
Ben Zobrist made his first spring appearance after a sore back slowed his progress early in camp.
He was hitless in three at-bats from the leadoff spot, including a groundout to open the Cubs’ first and strikeout to end it.
“I’ve been champing at the bit since October,” he said. “All of us feel that way, and we’re excited to get the season going. … I feel great.”
On deck: Cubs at Indians, Goodyear, Ariz., Jose Quintana vs. Trevor Bauer, 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, Ch. 9, cubs.com audio.