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Pitch perfect? Yu Darvish takes on critics, then Cole Hamels takes down Reds

Darvish

Yu Darvish on Thursday said he was relieved to finally get definitive medical proof that months of recurring pain was indeed in his elbow – not in his head.

More than that, the Cubs’ big free agent acquisition of the winter seemed to take even greater satisfaction in knowing that his critics on social media and elsewhere were proven wrong by the results of Monday’s arthrogram MRI that showed a stress-reaction bone bruise at the back of the elbow.

“Some people referred to this as my weakness on the mental side, because there was this uncertainty this whole time,” said Darvish – acknowledging that he, too, sometimes wondered when multiple exams revealed only “tightness” or an “impingement.”

Darvish’s conversation with reporters Thursday came a few hours before the pitcher the Cubs were forced to add at the trade deadline to address their rotation deficit pitched his strongest start yet to beat the Reds 7-1 at Wrigley Field.

Cole Hamels (4-0) pitched the Cubs’ first complete game of the season – allowed to finish the game even after loading the bases with one in the ninth and eventually throwing 114 pitches.

He induced a game-ending double play.

Hamels allowed only five hits after giving up the lone run in the first inning Thursday – his ERA through five starts since the trade now 0.79.

“He’s been dominant,” said Anthony Rizzo, whose third homer in as many games put the Cubs in the lead in the first. “Our staff’s already been really good. Obviously, losing Yu for the rest of the year. … With the addition of Cole, he has all the credentials.”

Hamels’ remarkable success in the Cubs’ rotation has soothed much of the sting of losing Darvish for all but eight early season starts because of the pain that surfaced in May only to flare up during each of two comeback efforts.

Thursday’s victory boosted the Cubs’ lead in the National League Central to three games over the second-place Cardinals and 3½ over the third-place Brewers – both of whom were idle.

<em>Hamels was in control all night</em>
Hamels was in control all night

All of which played out against the backdrop of Darvish’s disappointment and strong words about critics who accused him of “faking” his injury – albeit, most of the stronger words saved for the blog post he published before meeting with media Thursday.

In the blog, translated from Japanese, he wrote of pain the day after a five-inning rehab start in June “so significant that it was affecting my simple everyday life activities. I couldn’t even toss a baseball lightly.

“Meanwhile,” the blog went on, “the atmosphere around me had become, `Is he faking an injury? Is it a mental problem?’ Those words made it extremely difficult for me to stop and rest, and it really took a toll on me emotionally.”

Speaking later, he declined to identify those he believed had accused him of “faking” an injury.

“I don’t really want to go into details about that,” he said. “It’s not really about fans or anything. I’d rather not talk about it in detail.”

<em>Javy Baez hit the longest homer at Wrigley this season (481 feet) during a three-hit night.</em>
Javy Baez hit the longest homer at Wrigley this season (481 feet) during a three-hit night.

Asked if he was angry about the speculation that seemed to swirl about his condition and his playing status since May, he again sidestepped the direct question.

“I think it’s just natural to receive those kinds of comments towards me because they don’t really understand where the pain is and how much the pain is,” he said through his interpreter.

Darvish said he expects to need six weeks of rest for the bone bruise to clear and doesn’t anticipate surgery but hasn’t ruled out seeking more medical tests or evaluations in the next weeks and months if he thinks it’s necessary.

“I’m sure that he feels somewhat vindicated,” said manager Joe Maddon, who wouldn’t speculate on how much of the Darvish blowback over the summer was related to his six-year, $126 million contract.

“I wish it [wasn’t],” he said. “Maybe it did, I don’t know. Regardless of making a lot of money or not, if a player tells me he’s not doing well I’m going to believe him.”