The Cubs flipped the script in more ways than one Saturday.
In a game that featured six home runs and 25 hits, the Cubs employed a small-ball approach to generate the go-ahead run. The much-maligned bullpen, reeling from overuse, came through in a pinch.
And right-hander Yu Darvish, having been unable to pitch late into a game the last two seasons, found his way to the mound in the eighth inning of the Cubs’ wild 8-6 victory against the Reds.
“That’s entertainment, guys,” manager Joe Maddon said as he made his way to the postgame news conference. “They seem to all be like that, especially recently. The wind was a friend for both sides.”
Balls that at first appeared to be routine flyouts made their way into the outfield basket. Albert Almora, Addison Russell and Jason Heyward went deep for the Cubs, and the Reds had three homers of their own by Tucker Barnhart, Derek Dietrich and Yasiel Puig, whose fifth-inning blast crashed onto Waveland.
But homers only paint part of the picture. With the game tied at 6 in the eighth inning, Almora drew a one-out walk against Jared Hughes, Russell bunted a single down the third-base line and David Bote hit a clutch RBI double to left-center field. Kyle Schwarber drove in an insurance run — because you can never be too sure with this Cubs bullpen — with a sacrifice fly.
It certainly was a change of pace for a team that has hit 11 homers in its last four games to bring the season total to 80 in only 50 games.
“On days like today with the wind blowing out, it would have been easier to get it done like that,” Almora said of the homers. “But with a guy like Hughes, it’s not easy to get the ball in the air against him.
“We love the grind; we love the battle. This is what we play for. We love picking each other up, and today was no different.”
Maddon said that he was going to need Darvish to pitch deep into the game and showed tremendous confidence in his starter by bringing him out to pitch the seventh. Darvish already had thrown 93 pitches.
He retired the side in order and struck out Puig on three fastballs — the last two hitting 97 mph.
Darvish, then at 100 pitches, came back out for the eighth and gave up a solo homer to Dietrich that tied the game at 6. But he and Maddon saw the bright side to his six-run, 12-hit outing.
“I gave up, like, 18 hits and 12 runs,” Darvish joked, “but still, I’m a little happy. I went seven innings.
“I knew the bullpen was struggling and didn’t have a rest, so my main goal was to go more than seven innings.”
Darvish pitched into the seventh inning for the first time since Game 3 of the 2017 National League Championship Series. The 12 hits off him were a career high, as were the three homers he allowed.
He also faced a career-high 34 batters and threw 82 strikes, the most by a Cubs pitcher this season. His pitching line aside, Darvish described the Cubs’ victory as a big confidence boost.
“I feel like the guys trust me now,” Darvish said. “It’s a huge step.”
Darvish fell just short of picking up his first win as a Cub at Wrigley, but the bullpen stepped up a day after blowing a ninth-inning lead.
Tyler Chatwood allowed singles to the first two batters he faced in the ninth but got Jesse Winker to ground into a double play. Chatwood ran quickly to cover first base on the play to earn some kudos from Maddon.
“[Chatwood has] been throwing really well,” Maddon said. “If he’s throwing strikes, he can do anything. He’s that valuable. His stuff is that good. And one of the most underrated things you ever talk about is how he covered first base. This guy’s a really good fielder, and he covers first base as quickly and as theoretically perfect as anyone else.”
Dillon Maples, promoted from Class AAA Iowa before the game, and Kyle Ryan combined to throw a scoreless inning of relief.