Few would argue that right-hander Yu Darvish is the Cubs’ best starter. He’s showing he’s also one of the best in baseball.
Darvish has picked up where he left off during the second half of 2019 and is putting together quite an abbreviated season in the process. He continued to impress by dominating a red-hot White Sox lineup in the Cubs’ 2-1 victory Sunday at Wrigley Field.
‘‘I feel like I have confidence right now,’’ Darvish said. ‘‘I feel very good, especially today. I had a lot of power in my body.’’
Darvish’s job Sunday was twofold: He had to play stopper after the Cubs had lost the first two games of the series, and he had to try to slow down the Sox’ bats.
He came out aggressively, attacking the strike zone early. And despite getting a home run from Jose Abreu in the second inning, the Sox didn’t have an answer for Darvish’s repertoire.
A different pitch has been the star of the show in each of Darvish’s starts this season. It was the cutter last week and the slider Sunday.
Darvish got a whopping 26 swings-and-misses from the Sox, including 13 on the slider. Only two of the 25 sliders he threw were put in play.
‘‘The secondary stuff is so good, and the way he commands it is fun to watch,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘I tell him that all the time. It’s a credit to him.
‘‘Knowing himself, he continues to work the lineup and work to his strengths off of that. On paper, [it was] probably not the best matchup today for some of his pitch characteristics. But he continued to execute those pitches on the corners. And the fastball looked explosive today.’’
‘‘I wasn’t thinking about anything, just following the scouting report,’’ Darvish said of his game plan against the Sox. ‘‘Just used the breaking ball and mixed in the cutter, slider and knuckle-curveball at the right time, especially to righties. [Then] throw a chase slider and cutter.’’
Darvish got stronger as the game went on, but the biggest question wasn’t whether he could keep it up but whether the Cubs would be able to get him enough runs to earn a victory.
The Cubs were blanked for five innings by Sox right-hander Dylan Cease before breaking through in the sixth. After a one-out double by Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber cranked out a 430-foot homer to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. It would be all Darvish would need.
‘‘Facing [Darvish] in spring training and summer camp . . . let’s just say I’m happy he’s on our team,’’ Schwarber said with a smile. ‘‘When he’s in the zone, it’s just filthy. It’s nasty. No one’s looking forward to facing Yu Darvish when he’s on the mound.’’
Darvish allowed one run, struck out 10 and walked one in seven innings en route to his fifth consecutive victory. He also has thrown five consecutive quality starts and hasn’t allowed more than one run since his first start July 25.
Darvish has taken on the role of the Cubs’ ace and run with it since the second half of last season, and his performance so far in 2020 has him in the conversation for the National League Cy Young Award.
But while the talk of accolades will continue to come if Darvish continues to pitch well, he isn’t letting himself get too far ahead.
‘‘I don’t want to think about that,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t care. Next pitch.’’