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Yu falters early, Cubs fall late to Rangers

Three takeaways from Chicago's disappointing loss
@MLBastian
March 31, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Yu Darvish had been greatly looking forward to Saturday's start against the Rangers. It was a return to health and a return to the mound where his Major League career began. And for two batters, Darvish rode the wave of emotions with a pair of impressive strikeouts. "I

ARLINGTON -- Yu Darvish had been greatly looking forward to Saturday's start against the Rangers. It was a return to health and a return to the mound where his Major League career began. And for two batters, Darvish rode the wave of emotions with a pair of impressive strikeouts.

"I thought, 'Here we go,'" Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He looked like he was on."

The first-inning strikeouts of Shin-Soo Choo and Rougned Odor were hardly an indication of the kind of evening it would be for Darvish and the Cubs in an 8-6 loss to the Rangers at Globe Life Park. Darvish labored through a 75-pitch, seven-walk outing. Both clubs combined for 19 walks. And Joey Gallo finally snapped the bend in Chicago's staff with a three-run homer off Carl Edwards Jr. in the eighth inning.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday's loss.

1) Darvish could not corral his fastball

When Darvish made his Cactus League debut this spring, he was wild on the mound, issued four walks in an abbreviated effort and admitted that nerves got the best of him. Here in Arlington, where Darvish said he "grew up" as a pitcher, he was making his first regular-season start for the Cubs since May 20.

There is no denying that the right-hander had a lot on his mind.

"I could see his body language. He got really emotional," Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said. "In this situation, I think any player could get emotional."

The biggest issue for Darvish in Texas was harnessing his four-seam fastball. The righty fired 40 heaters overall, but was scattering them throughout his 2 2/3 innings (career low). By the third inning, Darvish's average fastball velocity dropped to 90.6 mph, per Statcast. Maddon said it looked like the pitcher was trying to guide the ball to the zone, rather than reeling back and throwing with conviction.

"I can't tell why right now," said Darvish, who allowed three runs, including two on a third-inning homer by Asdrubal Cabrera. "I have to look at the video tomorrow. But, the ball was fine. The mound was fine. It's just all about me."

2) Quintana provided bullpen bridge

Leading up to Saturday, Maddon had made a point not to announce any planned starting pitchers after Monday's series opener in Atlanta. With two scheduled off-days within the first six days of the season, the Cubs could afford to hold off on revealing their rotation plans in the name of maintaining flexibility.

"I wasn't trying to be covert,” Maddon said. “I didn't know what was going to happen tonight.”

Jose Quintana, who is the Cubs' fifth starter, took over in the fourth inning and chewed up four innings (81 pitches) to save the bullpen some work. Now, given the off-day looming Tuesday, the Cubs can give the ball to Jon Lester and Darvish on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, in Atlanta.

In the seventh, third baseman David Bote made an errant throw to first on what was deemed an infield single by Cabrera. Four batters later, Choo came through with a two-out, two-run single that cut Chicago's lead to 6-5. Even so, Quintana set things up for Maddon to turn to Edwards in the eighth and then potentially Pedro Strop in the ninth.

“Q gave us that chance to win right there,” Maddon said.

3) Edwards slips after great spring

Maddon had a very clear response to what he saw from Edwards in Saturday's outing in Texas.

"It was not the Carl we're used to seeing," said Maddon, who noted that Edwards' velocity was down.

On a cool night in Arlington, Edwards averaged 92.9 mph with his fastball -- down from 94.5 mph overall in 2018. The reliever topped out at 94.2 mph, which was his average fastball speed in the first month last year.

Following a strong Spring Training, in which Edwards debuted a hesitation move in his delivery with the goal of being more balanced and throwing more strikes, the righty lost control of the game in a span of three batters. Andrus reached on a grounded single up the middle, Nomar Mazara drew a walk and then Gallo crushed a first-pitch fastball over the middle out to center field.

"I've got a lot of anger in me right now," Edwards said. "I'd rather have that now than later on down the road in the playoff race. I mean, for me personally, I start off every year pretty good. I think this is a good step for me.

“I had a good Spring Training. I didn't really face any kind of adversity. And it happens now my first game of the year. That'll be a good test for me, going back out there."

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.