Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Yu stumbles after Cubs take lead with 3 homers

@MannyOnMLB
June 11, 2019

DENVER -- Yu Darvish threw five scoreless innings against the Rockies at Coors Field on Monday night. The problem was, he threw six innings in all, and he gave up four runs in that other one. “Yeah, it sucks,” Darvish said after the Cubs’ 6-5 loss, “especially after we score

DENVER -- Yu Darvish threw five scoreless innings against the Rockies at Coors Field on Monday night. The problem was, he threw six innings in all, and he gave up four runs in that other one.

“Yeah, it sucks,” Darvish said after the Cubs’ 6-5 loss, “especially after we score four runs with three homers. In the last five or six starts, that’s happened, where we score and I give up runs. I don’t feel good [about it].”

Box score

Darvish was staked to a 4-0 lead when David Bote, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo all homered in the third inning, only to give the four runs right back to the Rockies in the bottom half on two-run homers from Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado.

Mike Montgomery took over a 4-4 game in the seventh for Darvish, who has a club-record eight straight no-decisions, and surrendered a long pinch-hit homer to Ian Desmond to give the Rockies their first lead.

The Cubs tied the game at 5 on a Javier Baez fielder’s choice in the eighth, but Steve Cishek gave up a two-out, go-ahead single to Ryan McMahon in the bottom of that inning as Colorado took the lead for good.

Since the Cubs signed Darvish to a six-year, $126 million contract prior to the 2018 season, the right-hander’s tenure has been tumultuous. But there are signs things may be turning.

He joined the club with five Major League seasons on his resume, over which his ERA was 3.42 as he became one of the premier starters in the game. But a stress reaction in his right elbow, coupled with a right triceps strain, limited him to eight starts and a 4.95 ERA last season. And so far in ‘19, a healthy Darvish hasn’t fared much better, with an ERA of 4.98.

Perhaps the most alarming issue for Darvish this season has been his control, or to be more precise, his lack of it. His walk rate entering Monday was a staggering 14.9 percent of batters faced, and his 44 walks were the most in MLB.

But that walk rate was 19.3 percent after his outing on May 9 vs. the Marlins, when he walked six in four innings of work. In six starts since then, including Monday’s, when he didn’t walk any of the 25 batters he faced, Darvish has slashed that walk rate by more than half, down to 7.3 percent.

“Yu was throwing a lot of strikes with his fastball,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That was like his best fastball command I’ve seen out of him.”

Darvish threw 83 pitches on Monday, and 63 were strikes. That’s the best ball-to-strike ratio he’s had in 14 starts this season.

Of the 69 fastballs Darvish threw (30 four-seamers, 33 cutters and six two-seamers), two of them sunk the Cubs, a four-seamer to Blackmon for a homer and a cutter to Arenado that stayed over the heart of the plate three batters later.

“I wanted to throw up and in to Blackmon, but I missed middle-in” Darvish said. “The second one, to Arenado, that [can’t] happen. That was my mistake.”

While Darvish lamented yet another outing in which he couldn’t break the pattern of a couple of solid starts followed by a clunker, he was not reserved about the improvements he saw in himself.

“Little by little, I’m getting more confidence in my fastball, especially today,” he said. “I felt really good about my fastball tonight.”

Despite Darvish’s struggles, the Cubs entered their series with the Rockies with the fifth-best starting-rotation ERA in baseball, at 3.63. Darvish’s outing came on the heels of a run of strong performances by Chicago starters. Kyle Hendricks (2.05 ERA over his last three starts) and Cole Hamels (one unearned run in 15 innings over his last two starts) have been particularly excellent.

If Darvish continues to trend in the direction he’s headed, there’s a chance the entire rotation could fire on all cylinders for the first time since Darvish donned a Cubs uniform. And in a dogfight with the Brewers for the top spot in the National League Central, that could be the difference-maker in 2019.

“Just that one inning,” Darvish said. “The past six starts, I’ve felt good, so I want to keep going.”

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.