It's déjà Yu as Darvish posts another 5 zeros

May 7th, 2024

CHICAGO -- Despite being more than three years removed from his last season with the Cubs, entered Monday with just one start at his former ballpark since he was traded to the Padres in December 2020.

But fans on the North Side haven’t forgotten about their former ace.

“I get warm words from the Cubs fans,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “They tell me to come back to Chicago. I love the stadium, too. It’s a great feeling to come back here and to be able to pitch on this mound.”

Darvish looked right at home at Wrigley Field on Monday night, as San Diego opened a three-game series against the Cubs. He threw five scoreless innings in his second start since returning from the 15-day injured list, leading the Padres to a 6-3 victory.

Combined with that June 2022 outing in Chicago, Darvish has allowed just one run in 13 innings in two starts at the Friendly Confines since he joined the Padres.

But more important, he has thrown 10 scoreless innings in two starts since he spent two weeks on the IL because of neck tightness. For a Padres rotation that will be without Joe Musgrove for at least the next few weeks, Darvish’s presence will loom large.

So far, so good.

“I thought he was pretty turned up the whole game,” manager Mike Shildt said.

When Darvish landed on the IL in mid-April, he had a 4.18 ERA through five outings, with 10 walks and 22 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings. That stretch included a start against these same Cubs, who tagged him for a season-high four runs in just three innings as Darvish walked three batters, tied for his most in an outing this season.

In two starts since he came off the IL, he has walked one batter -- a leadoff free pass to Christopher Morel in the fourth inning Monday -- and has allowed six hits. It’s easy to see the difference these past two outings.

“I think it is the command,” Shildt said. “I think it's the life to his pitches and the finish to his pitches. The fastball has got the velocity that we've seen in the past, with the life we've seen, and the secondary pitches have the right bite.

“He's throwing it where he wants to, so he's in a really good spot.”

Darvish threw 83 pitches on Monday. Statcast tracked eight pitch types -- slider (28), four-seamer (20), sinker (11) sweeper (eight), knuckle-curve (six), cutter (four), curveball (three) and splitter (three).

His slider, in particular, was sharp. Darvish threw it for a strike 20 times and generated eight whiffs with it, his most in a single start this season.

“I thought it was good,” Darvish said. “I felt like I was fooling the batters with that pitch, so I was able to throw the slider tonight with confidence.”

Other than a leadoff double by Nico Hoerner in the first inning and that walk to Morel in the fourth, Darvish set the tone. San Diego’s offense backed him with a big sixth inning, when they sent 10 batters to the plate and scored six times.

Fernando Tatis Jr. led off the inning with the first of five consecutive singles, and he was the first of seven straight hitters to reach base. Tatis and Jake Cronenworth pulled off a double steal, and San Diego also had two instances where baserunning aided the rally.

Xander Bogaerts singled to advance an in-motion Jurickson Profar to third. In his Padres debut, Donovan Solano then drove home Profar with a single. Bogaerts, who was on the move from first, advanced to third. Bogaerts eventually scored.

The Cubs were looking to rally in the later innings, but closer Robert Suarez shut the door on a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the eighth en route to a five-out save.

The win continued a solid road trip for the Padres. For Darvish, it represents an outing to build on. He said his next time out, he’s looking forward to getting his pitch count up closer to 100 pitches. His season high is 92.

“Just overall, physically, I feel like I'm getting stronger and better,” Darvish said. “So I think that's playing in a positive way on the mound, too.”