CUBS AVOID SWEEP, END SOX’ 7-GAME WIN­NING STREAK

Right-han­der dom­i­nates red-hot Sox with 10 strike­outs in Cubs’ vic­tory

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - RUS­SELL DORSEY CUBS BEAT rdorsey@sun­times.com | @Russ_Dorsey1

Few would ar­gue that righthande­r 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.’’

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