The Chicago Cubs looked to start a win streak after roughing up the Pirates on a 10-0 win in the home opener. With the Milwaukee Brewers losing two in a row thanks to Tommy La Stella’s three home runs against them, the Cubs have a chance to keep gaining ground on them.
Yu Darvish was tasked with the challenge of pitching in the freezing temperatures – started at 40 degrees – and 20-plus MPH winds, but he was one of the few players not wearing long sleeves. Darvish was unable to go more than four innings in his first two starts of the season and has given up six earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched.
Joe Maddon went with Daniel Descalso’s hot bat – .346 entering the game – to lead off the game, and Albert Almora in center field despite a right-handed pitcher on the mound in Jordan Lyles. Lyles was successful in his first start of the season, shutting out the Cincinnati Reds over five innings of work.
Prior to the game, Jon Lester was sent to the IL because of a tight hamstring, and the Cubs called up lefty Tim Collins to add another arm to the bullpen. Maddon said that they called up Collins to “double down on lefties with Tommy (La Stella) coming to town.” Tyler Chatwood is expected to take Lester’s spot in the rotation and start on Sunday.
Darvish’s stuff looked good out of the gate despite giving up a home run in the first inning to Francisco Cervelli. He was throwing strikes and had good movement on his breaking balls. He followed it up with a 1-2-3 inning in the second inning.
The Cubs offense struggled against the Pirates starting pitcher in the first two innings. They had no hits through the first six batters, while striking out four times. The game had the looks of a low-scoring affair due to the wind blowing in.
That wind didn’t seem to affect the Pirates though, as Starling Marte hit a two-run home run in the top of third after Darvish hit the opposing pitcher with a curve-ball. Still, it was only the second hit given up by Darvish on the day as he looked good despite the two long-balls.
The Cubs offense heated up a bit with Jason Heyward notching the first hit of the day for the Cubs followed by a hit by Almora off of the opposing pitcher’s glove. It had the looks of a promising inning with them advancing to second and third with nobody out. It was all for naught, however, as they were stranded there after Lyles struck out the next two batters and got Kris Bryant to pop-out to center field to end the inning.
Darvish continued to look like his former self, making it through the next two innings facing the minimum amount of batters and only giving up one single. Heyward stayed hot and lined a solo home run to center field in the bottom of the fifth to open up the scoring for the Cubs.
With the Cubs down 3-1, Darvish made it into the sixth inning looking to keep the Cubs in striking distance. He started to face some trouble giving up two hits after getting the lead-off guy out. Maddon decided it was enough and turned to recent call-up Kyle Ryan to try to hold the Pirates. He was unable to do as both runners scored and were charged to Darvish (one unearned).
Darvish’s ending line was 5.1 innings pitched on five hits and four earned runs. There were a lot of positives to take away from his outing. He found his control finishing with zero walks on the day, which is a big step from his first two starts. Darvish also was able to keep his pitch count down compared to his first two outings, he made it into the sixth inning on only 77 pitches. Hopefully Darvish can take this momentum into his next start and keep improving.
The Cubs, still playing from behind, once again had a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the sixth. After Bryant walked, he was able to steal second and make it to third on a throwing error by the catcher Cervelli. Strikeouts continued to haunt the Cubs, though, with Baez whiffing for Lyles’ tenth of the game to leave another runner in scoring position
The Cubs bullpen dealt with traffic in the seventh and eighth innings, but they were able to keep the Pirates from scoring. Chatwood got to get some work in before his start on Sunday. He gave up a double and walked a batter but got out of the inning. It is known that his main problem of 2018 was his walks, averaging 8.2 walks per nine innings. He hasn’t done much better this year, walking five batters through six innings so far. Hopefully that changes on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels.
The recent call-ups all got work in this game. After Ryan, Allen Webster got the seventh inning and Collins pitched the ninth. Both allowed traffic on the base paths, but they were able to pitch scoreless innings. Judging from early showings it doesn’t look any of the three are long-term answers for the bullpen struggles.
The Cubs still have three injured relievers with much stronger track records – Brandon Morrow, Xavier Cedeno and Tony Barnette – that should be back in the next month or so. They will definitely be an improvement on the aforementioned three that pitched in relief today.
The Cubs’ lineup had struggled up the eighth inning, with the 1-6 hitters going 0-for-17. Bryant changed that with a one out single to right field, continuing his opposite field approach he has had so far this season. After a walk by Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez lined a double down the left field line scoring Bryant to cut into the Pirates’ lead. There was nothing after that as the Cubs finished the night going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position in a 5-2 loss.
There weren’t many bright spots for the Cubs in this one. Darvish’s stuff looked a lot better so hopefully he can build on that for his next start and not get discouraged by the box score. Heyward stayed hot with three hits on the day including a home run, but not much else from the rest of the lineup.
Strikeouts were a huge problem as the Cubs ended up with 15 on the day and failed to make contact in many key opportunities throughout the game. The offense had been great so far, ranking toward the top of the league in almost every category, so we’ll blame tonight on the weather.
Next Up for the Cubs
The Cubs will look to scrape out their first series win of the season tomorrow with Jose Quintana (0-1, 10.29 ERA) on the bump. They will be facing Joe Musgrove (1-0, 0.00 ERA) who shutout the Reds over seven innings in his first start of the year. The weather will be a little better tomorrow and the wind is expected to be blowing out so the bats should be able to bounce back.
On Friday the Cubs will welcome the Angels to Wrigley Field. With Mike Trout nursing a groin injury, it is still unknown whether he will be able to play. Whether he does or not, the Cubs are a superior team than the Angels, so it is another winnable series.
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