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Cubs 3, Brewers 2: How do Yu like Darvish now?

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The Cubs righthander put together an outstanding outing.

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Now, admit it, because it happened to me too.

When Yu Darvish got to two out in the fifth inning and then gave up a first-pitch single to Brewers pitcher Brent Suter, then walked Lorenzo Cain, you said, “Uh oh, here we go again.” It was the exact point at which Darvish had melted down in his previous two starts. And the Cubs were clinging to a 2-1 lead at the time.

But Darvish battled through it, getting Christian Yelich to hit comebacker, and for just the second time this year, Darvish completed six strong innings against the Brewers. And though the Cubs pen blew the lead, the offense came through with a seventh-inning run and the Cubs defeated the Brewers for the second straight day, 3-2.

Darvish got into trouble not of his own making in the first inning. A fly to right field by Cain, leading off the game, got blown significantly away from Jason Heyward by a strong northeast wind and J-Hey dropped it. Cain wound up on second, stole third, and scored on a sacrifice fly.

But the Cubs came back with two of their own in the bottom of the inning. Albert Almora Jr. led off with a double and was singled in by Javier Baez. Javy stole second and scored on a single by Anthony Rizzo and it was 2-1.

Darvish then settled down. He allowed just two baserunners from the second through the fourth, and he was clearly pitching differently than before. The hesitation move in the middle of his motion that had gotten him the balk call a couple of starts ago that rattled him was gone; his motion was fluid throughout. He had command of all his pitches and was mixing them up well, and relied quite a bit on his cutter and slider. And then there was this:

Wow, that’s a nasty, nasty curveball. Friday, we saw more of Darvish’s repertoire than I think we’ve seen at any time to date.

He even added a leadoff double in the fifth:

He really did have a chance to go for three bases on that hit; Domingo Santana let the ball rattle around in the corner for a while and Darvish likely could have had a triple, but instead he did that faceplant. And, unfortunately, he was stranded there in the bottom of the fifth.

In the sixth, he started getting hit a little, with the first two outs being well-struck balls to left field. Santana followed with a two-out double and I was certain Joe Maddon would come and get him, with Steve Cishek warming up. But Joe left Yu in to face Hernan Perez, and Darvish struck him out, his eighth K of the game.

Darvish lowered his ERA from 6.86 to 5.26 with six innings and no earned runs allowed, and this is the way I expected him to throw when the Cubs signed him. We will no doubt see more of this. You undoubtedly heard chants of “Yuuuuuuuu” after some of the strikeouts. That’s good to see. Did you like that? Maddon did:

Unfortunately, Cishek came in and helped take away Darvish’s “W” for the game. Cishek walked the first batter he faced, Eric Sogard, then allowed a single. He got Ryan Braun on a fly to center that was too shallow to score Sogard, largely because Almora got a running start on it and made an excellent throw that Rizzo cut off, preventing both runners from advancing. But then Cishek walked Cain, loading the bases.

That brought in Brian Duensing to face Yelich.

That’s when we all became thankful for the wind, which had shifted from northeast to east and was now howling in straight from right field, because Yelich hit a ball that would have been a grand slam on almost any other day. Instead, Heyward caught the ball in deep right field. It did score a run, tying the game, but the wind gave the Cubs a huge boost there.

Pedro Strop entered and got Jesus Aguilar on a fly to center.

The Cubs went to work in the bottom of the inning to get the lead back. Addison Russell led off with a single and Heyward sacrificed him to second. A single by pinch-hitter Victor Caratini moved Russell to third, and Almora struck out.

That brought up Baez. His ground ball to short was booted by Sogard and Russell scored the lead run.

Not pretty, but the Cubs will surely take it.

That left it up to the two pitchers who had nailed down Thursday night’s win, Carl Edwards Jr. and Brandon Morrow. C.J. got his guys 1-2-3 in the eighth, and after the Cubs also went down in order in that inning, on came Morrow.

He struck out Sogard. Then Manny Pina sent a sinking line drive that Russell speared just an inch or two above the infield dirt for the second out.

Braun, the man Cubs fans love to boo, was next.

Absolutely textbook. Fastballs at 98 and 99 in the zone, then an elevated fastball at 99 and Braun had no chance. Morrow had his sixth save and the Cubs went to three games over .500 for the first time this season.

A couple of notes. First, Kris Bryant should be back in the lineup tomorrow. The Cubs have missed his bat — but including Sunday, they’ve won four of five without him. It was good to be careful with him, especially this early in the season in cold weather. Also:

And this game shows you the value of the individual pitcher “win” — which is pretty much zero. Strop, who threw three pitches and retired one batter, was the “pitcher of record” when the Cubs broke the tie and took the lead for good, so he gets the “win” — and leads the Cubs with three “wins,” which makes no sense at all.

Perhaps MLB should reconsider how “wins” are handed out, if they want to keep using them as a number that means anything at all. I’d suggest that in a game like this — or maybe any game — throw out “pitcher of record” and allow the official scorer to give the “win” to the pitcher he feels threw best. In this case it would be Darvish; it wasn’t his fault that the lead he left with was blown.

Otherwise why even bother counting individual pitcher wins?

It was chilly at Wrigley, as noted, and the wind was definitely a factor, costing the Cubs one run but perhaps saving three others. And, rain that was in the forecast held off until about an hour after the game ended, just now starting on the north side of Chicago as I write this recap.

I was very, very encouraged by what I saw from Darvish in this game. That makes three straight excellent outings from Cubs starting pitchers, totaling 20 innings with 11 hits and two walks allowed, four earned runs and 17 strikeouts. That’s what this rotation is capable of and what I believe they will continue to do.

The Cubs go for their third win in a row Saturday afternoon with Jose Quintana on the mound. For the Brewers it’ll be Junior Guerra. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and Saturday TV coverage is on ABC7 Chicago (and also on MLB Network out-of-market).