3 Up, 3 Down: Cubs' Tyler Chatwood Starts Strong

Chatwood worked six shutout innings in the Cubs' 2-1 win Sunday.

Chris Emma
April 22, 2019 - 9:46 am
Cubs right-hander Tyler Chatwood

David Banks/USA Today Sports

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(670 The Score) David Bote delivered once again as he walked off the Cubs with a victory Sunday at Wrigley Field. It brought the team back to .500 on the season at 11-11, part of a turnaround over the last two weeks.

Here are the latest trends with the Cubs as they break for an off day:

THREE UP

1.) Chatwood in control

Related: Cubs Bullpen Without Closer Solution

In the mind of manager Joe Maddon, the story of Sunday's walk-off 2-1 win for the Cubs wasn't the latest clutch moment for David Bote or the decisive baserunning of Javier Baez. Instead, to Maddon, it was all about spot starter Tyler Chatwood, who pitched six shutout innings.

Chatwood walked a league-worst 8.25 per nine innings last season, so it was notable when he issued a four-pitch free pass to Diamondbacks leadoff man Jarrod Dyson to open the game. But it was one of only two walks over those six innings from Chatwood, that along with just two hits surrendered. 

Chatwood did not factor in the decision after Pedro Strop blew a ninth-inning save attempt, but he was a key part in the Cubs coming through with the victory.

2.) Javy, Willy on top of their game

They aren't the inseparable tandem of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, but Javier Baez and Willson Contreras have been the kind of 1-2 punch the Cubs have needed thus far. 

Baez has been a force at the plate, picking up from his MVP-type play of 2018. He has a slash line of .302/.333/.605 to go with six homers and 17 RBIs. Baez is already a one-win player, according to FanGraphs. Contreras has hardly been outdone, working a .321/.465/.714 slash line to go with six homers and 13 RBIs, managing 1.1 WAR per FanGraphs.

Contreras ranks as the top catcher in baseball in WAR, among other categories he has dominated.        

3.) Walk-off Bote

David Bote thrives in the big moment. That much has been clear in his first year with the Cubs. On Sunday, it was Bote coming through again in the ninth inning, ripping an RBI single to right field for his fourth career walk-off hit.

While it will be tough for Bote to top his walk-off grand slam -- a two-out-two-strike swing Sunday brought another swing to savor. He put the ball through the right side of the infield, celebrated with his teammates on the field, then booked it to O'Hare Airport for a flight to Colorado, where his wife was preparing to deliver their third child.

THREE DOWN

1.) Yu needs to be better

The Cubs had been quick to point the progress of starter Yu Darvish in recent starts. On Saturday, he took a step backwards. Darvish went five innings, allowing three earned runs -- including two on back-to-back first-inning homers -- in the Cubs' 6-0 loss to the Diamondbacks. 

Darvish fell to 1-3 with his ERA at 5.96 on the season. He has yet to pitch into the seventh inning wearing a Cubs uniform. 

2.) Schwarber still struggling

April has not been kind to Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber, who is off to a disappointing start to his 2019 season. Schwarber is under the Mendoza Line of .200, working a slash line of .194/.265/.355 with three home runs and six RBIs. Maddon has dropped the slugger into the eighth spot in the team's lineup amid these struggles.

While the Cubs won't overreact to such a small sample size, they will be watching Schwarber closely as he moves forward looking to find his form.    

3.) Backup backstop

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said last week on 670 The Score that his team absolutely cannot run its starting catcher Contreras into the ground. But without backup catcher Victor Caratini -- out at least a month more with a fractured left hamate bone -- it's hard to imagine Contreras staying fresh.

The Cubs called up Taylor Davis, largely a career minor leaguer, in place of Caratini. He has appeared in one game the last nearly two weeks, pinch hitting in the eighth inning Saturday. Hoyer had said the Cubs would explore catching depth in the meantime. That would certainly serve Contreras well.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.​