Cubs can’t dig out of early Darvish hole; Morrow suffers setback
Darvish lasts 5 innings, allowing 3 runs, as the Cubs’ 4-game winning streak ends
On a warm, sunny afternoon in spring training, Yu Darvish said he didn’t want to hear boos anymore at Wrigley Field.
“I want ‘Yuuus,’ ” he said in March.
Maybe that day eventually will arrive, but the boos reverberated Saturday after the Cubs starter struggled early in a 6-0 loss to the Diamondbacks before 37,667 on another windy day at Wrigley.
The Cubs fell back below .500 at 9-10 and will send Tyler Chatwood to the mound Sunday for his first start since August.
Darvish lasted five innings before being lifted for a pinchhitter, allowing three runs on five hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.
“Overall, not horrible,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Not a bad performance. The homers early make it look worse than it was.”
Of course, when you’ve signed a pitcher to a six-year, $126 million deal, “overall, not horrible” isn’t exactly what you’re expecting. Darvish is 1-3 with a 5.96 ERA and has failed to last six innings in any of his five starts. He said he could have gone longer Saturday but knew the situation the Cubs were in — trailing 3-0 when Maddon lifted him for a pinch hitter after 88 pitches.
“I understand baseball is different than the American League,” he said. “A little disappointed, but that’s National League.”
How important is it for Darvish to last six innings or more in his coming starts?
“When I can go there, I can get more confidence,” he replied. “So I want to throw more than seven innings.”
Before the game, Maddon was excited about the new Darvish, who was coming off his first win Monday in Miami.
“Honestly, I’d take what I saw
last time — continued aggressiveness, assertiveness, and really pitch with the emotion I saw,” Maddon said. “I’m really stuck on that with him. If he just pitches with animation and takes off all the shackles that surround him and just plays, I would take that, because the ability is so high end. Just permit himself to go out there and be great. This guy can really turn it on.”
But Darvish served up back-toback home runs to Eduardo
Escobar and David Peralta in the first and walked off the mound with his head down. Escobar’s prodigious home run to right came on a 2-0 pitch, while Peralta hit a line shot to right on an 0-2 offering, igniting the booing.
Darvish walked the first two hitters in the second, eliciting more boos. One of those walks scored on a sacrifice fly to put the Cubs in a 3-0 hole, and with Zack Greinke on the mound and dealing for the Diamondbacks, the Cubs were down for the count.
Greinke (3-1) pitched six scoreless innings, with the key moment coming in the fourth when he caught Jason Heyward looking at strike three with runners on the corners to end the innings.
“I got to see everything from him today . ... You’ve got to tip your hat,” Heyward said. “He threw a perfect pitch.”
A three-run sixth off reliever Allen Webster ended any feint chances of a late comeback, and the Cubs’ modest four-game winning streak was over.
Darvish obviously has the stuff to dominate and said in spring training he was throwing as good as any time in his career. But he hasn’t been able to put together any consistency, and the inability to get past the sixth is a concern.
Trying to live up to expectations has been a task for Darvish.
“For one, expectations, you’re never going to reach them,” Heyward said. “I feel like (he should be) keeping it simple, don’t try and reach for that. Just go out and be yourself. Go out with the right mindset of how you’re going to attack people. … His stuff is nasty, plain and simple. Anytime I pitch with Yu on a video game, it’s guaranteed one-hitter at least. But I feel like his confidence is another thing he’s going to keep building on.
“Every game is different. Today was I guess you could say a setback, or whatever. His last start was pretty good. His next start I know he’s going to come out and be hungry again.”
Cubs starters have been a key to their resurgence from a 1-6 start, with Jose Quintana and Cole Hamels leading the charge. Kyle Hendricks had his best start of the season Friday, while Jon Lester is expected back from his hamstring injury in the next week.
If the real Darvish can become the video-game version of himself, gain some confidence and get over his early inning struggles, the ‘Yuuus’ will come around.
Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish steps off the mound as Arizona’s Eduardo Escobar rounds the bases after hitting a home run Saturday.