Right-hander Yu Darvish was cruising along in his second start at Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform when he reached the dreaded fifth inning — and managed to get through it unscathed.
Looking much more like the starter the Cubs envisioned when they doled out $126 million for the big-ticket free agent this past winter, Darvish was brilliant in a 3-2 victory over the Brewers on a frigid Friday at Wrigley Field. He went six innings and yielded an unearned run and three hits with two walks and eight strikeouts but ended up with his third no-decision of the season after the bullpen coughed up a 2-1 lead.
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But the Cubs, helped along by Darvish’s outing, pulled out the win, their fourth in the last five games. They reached a season-high three games over .500 when they scored an unearned run in the seventh on a two-out grounder by Javy Baez. Brewers shortstop Eric Sogard couldn’t corral the sharply hit ball, and Addison Russell crossed the plate with the go-ahead run.
Darvish exorcised some demons by making it past the fifth without imploding. In his previous two starts — both losses — he gave up a combined nine runs and 14 hits in the fifth as opposing hitters got their measure of him the second and third time through the batting order.
“There may be situations in the future where I might encounter similar problems . . . but this is certainly a confidence-booster,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “I’ll just keep going.”
Darvish and the Cubs fell behind early as a result of some shaky defense. The normally reliable Jason Heyward dropped a pop fly by Lorenzo Cain for an error, and the Brewers’ leadoff hitter eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Jesus Aguilar.
The Cubs responded in the bottom of the first with two runs off Brent Suter on singles by Baez and Anthony Rizzo.
Darvish started the fifth with strikeouts of Sogard and Manny Pina — the latter on a 64 mph curveball — before giving up a single to Suter and walking Cain. With some of the crowd of 35,579 chanting “Yuuuuu,” Darvish then got Christian Yelich to tap back to the mound for an inning-ending groundout.
“I put the pitcher on base, so in that sense it was similar to last time I pitched, so I’m glad I was able to get out of it,” said Darvish, who lowered his ERA from 6.86 to 5.26. “It was a relief.”
After loading the bases in the seventh thanks to some wildness from Cubs reliever Steve Cishek, the Brewers tied it 2-2 on Yelich’s sacrifice fly off Brian Duensing, which a howling wind kept in the ballpark. That set the table for the bottom half, when the Cubs plated the final run.
Carl Edwards Jr. and Brandon Morrow sealed the deal as the Cubs improved to 13-10 on the season with their second straight one-run win over their Central Division rivals.
“Games like that where you’re kind of rolling ahead and they come back and then we put on the press and then let [Morrow] come into the game to finish it, are good ones,” outfielder Ian Happ said.
Above all, Darvish’s strong outing was the most positive aspect.
“That was above and beyond good stuff,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I thought he did a great job.”