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Three homers back Darvish's first Cubs win

Veteran righty overcomes early control issues to pitch 6 strong innings
Special to MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- Yu Darvish threw six strong innings to lift Chicago over the Reds, 6-1, in the series finale Sunday at Great American Ball Park. In doing so, Darvish earned his first win in a Cubs uniform.

Over 94 pitches (57 for strikes), Darvish allowed one earned run on two hits and walked three batters. He tallied seven strikeouts while pitching six innings for just the third time in eight starts this season. Darvish was coming off an outing in Atlanta in which he had left after four innings due to cramping in his right calf.

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CINCINNATI -- Yu Darvish threw six strong innings to lift Chicago over the Reds, 6-1, in the series finale Sunday at Great American Ball Park. In doing so, Darvish earned his first win in a Cubs uniform.

Over 94 pitches (57 for strikes), Darvish allowed one earned run on two hits and walked three batters. He tallied seven strikeouts while pitching six innings for just the third time in eight starts this season. Darvish was coming off an outing in Atlanta in which he had left after four innings due to cramping in his right calf.

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"I was feeling my fastball, and I was able to throw it in the strike zone because they were being pretty aggressive with their at-bats," Darvish said through an interpretor.

Darvish got himself into a jam in the home half of the first but managed to escape with just one run allowed. Darvish walked leadoff hitter Alex Blandino, and Joey Votto singled to put runners on first and third with one out. Scooter Gennett was then hit by a pitch to load the bases. After Darvish fanned left fielder Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler knocked in a run with an infield single before catcher Tucker Barnhart popped out to Ian Happ in foul territory.

"My off-speed pitches, as well as my fastball, weren't there during the first inning," Darvish responded. "I'm still changing my mechanics, so there's room to wiggle."

Video: CHC@CIN: Darvish retires Hamilton to navigate the 4th

"The difference [with Darvish] was, after the first inning, he really started to gain command of his fastball," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. "Then the slider becomes even more difficult. If he was in a different spot in the batting order, I probably would have let him go back out for the seventh. … My take on him is when he gets into a rhythm out there, it's almost like he stops thinking and just starts pitching."

Cubs hitters backed up Darvish with three home runs, along with a sacrifice fly and an RBI single.

In the top of the second inning, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez hit back-to-back home runs for Chicago, marking the first time Cubs hitters have hit consecutive homers this season.

Ben Zobrist added another run with a leadoff homer in the fifth.

Video: CHC@CIN: Zobrist clubs a solo home run to right field

"A lot of times, run differential is a product of good starting pitching, and we haven't pitched to our levels yet as starters, but we will. And then if we continue with this path on offense, that's where the spread occurs," Maddon said.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The back-to-back home runs by Schwarber and Baez got Chicago's offense clicking. Schwarber hit a line-drive, two-run shot to right field, and Baez quickly followed with a towering shot into the upper-deck bleachers in left to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead.

Video: CHC@CIN: Schwarber and Baez club back-to-back homers

SOUND SMART
Happ drew an intentional walk from Reds reliever Jared Hughes in the top of the ninth. It was the third walk of the afternoon for Happ and the ninth time in the four-game series that he earned a free pass. That is the most walks by a Cubs player in a single series vs. the Reds.

UP NEXT
After an off-day Monday, the Cubs send Tyler Chatwood to the mound for his ninth start when they host the Indians on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. CT. Chatwood pitched 5 1/3 innings in his last start, scattering four hits and two walks while allowing one earned run and striking out two. Right-hander Trevor Bauer gets the nod for the Tribe.

William Rettig is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati.

Chicago Cubs, Yu Darvish