"He was unbelievable," catcher Willson Contreras said of Darvish's first four innings. "He was executing every pitch. He made them look really uncomfortable at the plate. The split worked, the cutter worked a lot today."
In the fifth, however, Darvish's command began to fail him. Contreras warned his pitcher he was getting a bit too comfortable with two outs, and it was followed by a two-out, five-run Rockies rally.
"I treat every pitch every batter the same, regardless of how many outs I have," Darvish said through translator Daichi Sekizaki. "Every game, it's after the fifth inning when I get out of rhythm. I think that could be solved by using more off-speed pitches. In the last couple of games, I've been using fastball, slider, fastball, slider, so maybe more of the slower pitches such as the curveball to maybe overcome that problem."
For the second night in a row, the Cubs' first two batters scored to stake an early lead. Albert Almora Jr. blooped a leadoff single to center and Javier Baez singled up the middle to follow, continuing a hot spell that saw those two collect four hits apiece in Friday's series opener.
With two outs, Contreras hit a two-run double off the left-center-field wall to put the Cubs ahead.
The Cubs threatened in each of the next four frames, generating traffic in each inning and putting men in scoring position four of the first five innings. But they didn't have more than one hit in an inning past the first.
"I know we only scored two runs, but I liked the quality of our at-bats once again," manager Joe Maddon said. "For the most part, we didn't chase pitches out of the zone. The approach again tonight I thought was good. But [Rockies starter Tyler] Anderson was able to make pitches, and they made nice plays behind him."
An uplifting highlight for the Cubs came when Denver-area native David Bote made his Major League debut, starting at third base, and hit the second pitch he saw in his first at-bat into the right-center field gap for a standup double.
"I was just like, 'Man, did this happen? Did that really just happen?'" Bote said. "And seeing my teammates on the top step was a cool moment.
"That's a huge thing with this team. Everybody's in that at-bat with you, so when you get a hit, when you succeed, they feel it with you. That's just great to have as support, and a great group of guys to play with."
Former Cubs closer Wade Davis pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save.
PEDESTRIAN CROSSING Darvish was on a roll through the first 4 2/3 innings, looking even better than his April 7 start in Milwaukee. But with two outs and a man on first in the fifth, Darvish walked Rockies starting pitcher Tyler Anderson, setting up a five-run inning that turned the tide of the game. Darvish gave up two more singles, two doubles and another walk before Maddon removed him.
"That was a big moment," Maddon said. "If he gets [Anderson], we get out of that inning with zero runs. Still had opportunities to keep it right there. Pitch numbers were good. I definitely wanted to give him a chance to pitch through that, but the command escaped him. The command of his fastball was not what it needs to be, and that's what got him in trouble."
SOUND SMART Almora Jr. continued his hot hitting, going 2-for-3 to improve to .524 (11-for-21) in his five-game hitting streak. He is hitting at a .419 clip (13-for-31) with eight runs, four doubles and three RBIs in seven games out of the leadoff spot.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS With the Cubs up, 2-0, in the third, the Rockies had a man on second with two outs and Rockies leadoff hitter DJ LeMahieu, a former batting champ, at the plate. He drove a ball 401 feet into the right-center field gap, destined for a run-scoring extra-base hit. Almora raced toward the fence, catching the ball on the run with his back to the plate for a jaw-dropping basket catch as he approached the warning track. Almora traveled 87 feet in 5.2 seconds, and Statcast™ reports there was a 71-percent hit probability.
"It was an outstanding play," Maddon said. "The moment it was hit, I didn't know how much room there was between him and the fence. And then once he held the ball up, you knew it was a fantastic play."
HE SAID IT "He showed himself pretty good today, hitting one into the gap, but even more than that, some really tough plays at third base." -- Maddon, on Bote's Major League debut
UP NEXT Left-hander Jose Quintana gets the nod for Sunday's series finale, facing Rockies righty German Marquez at 2:10 p.m. CT. Though he has struggled early this season, Quintana is 2-0 with a 3.65 ERA against the Rockies, with both of his starts coming at hitter-friendly Coors Field.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver.