Yu Darvish Shines In Cubs' Victory

Darvish threw six shutout innings of two-hit ball as the Cubs beat the Pirates.

Bruce Levine
July 12, 2019 - 6:10 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- It has to happen at some point of the journey for right-hander Yu Darvish with the Chicago Cubs. 

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Darvish has now made 27 starts for the Cubs since signing with them in February 2018, but he still hasn't won a home game at Wrigley Field. Despite that reality, his contributions Friday set the tone for the Cubs' 4-3 victory over the Pirates to start the second half of the season.

After eight off days, the dye was cast and Darvish delivered an outstanding performance. He threw six shutout innings of two-hit ball while striking out eight.

Darvish really wanted the start to open the second half.

"He was really wanting to do this,"  manager Joe Maddon said. "He is really getting very comfortable in his Chicago Cubs skin. He is just a different cat and the way he gets ready is different. He is so much more comfortable than he was at any time last year."

Darvish was as good as he had ever been with the Cubs, according to Maddon and his teammates. 

The Cubs offense did nothing while Darvish was on the mound, with Pirates right-hander Chris Archer allowing just one hit through six innings. Kris Bryant hit a home run in the bottom of the seventh to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead after Darvish had exited. After the Pirates tied the game in the top of the eighth, Bryant scored the go-ahead run on Jason Heyward's RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.

"He looked like he was in total control," Bryant said of Darvish. "He knew what pitches he wanted to throw and was very deliberate. He was making all of his pitches. We are going to see a lot of that in the second half."

Darvish is 3-7 across two seasons with the Cubs, with all three wins coming on the road.

After his 2018 season ended on May 20 after hurting his right elbow, Darvish still hadn't found a consistent formula to open this season. That has changed recently, with Darvish looking more like the pitcher the Cubs were hoping to get when they signed him to a six-year, $126-million deal.

In his last six starts, Darvish has 41 strikeouts and has walked just six. Friday also marked his fifth quality start of the season.

What was the key against the Pirates? Eight days between starts might have helped. Darvish had outstanding life on his fastball and a good variety of breaking balls that he commanded from jump street.

It led to Darvish's first scoreless outing as a Cub.

"Against lefty hitters, I threw a change of speed, that was it," Darvish said. "It is tough after the All-Star break, but I had to do my job and focus each pitch."

A dominant Darvish in the Cubs' remaining 71 games would be a huge lift for a pitching staff that has seen injuries impact starters Kyle Hendricks and Cole Hamels.

"Last year, I didn't do anything," Darvish said. "So my goal was to pitch a lot of games this year. I know the first game back is tough, but I believed I could do it. So I told them I (wanted to) pitch. I have felt better before but this was my best results."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.