The Cubs trounced the Diamondbacks 9-1 Saturday night and there are a lot of good things to unpack about this win, not the least of which is Yu Darvish’s first really good outing of 2019.
But I want to start with the Cubs’ third-inning rally, which was one of the finest I’ve seen in the last couple of years.
That started after two shaky Darvish innings, in which he allowed no runs but threw 50 pitches. At that point there was a real question whether Darvish would make it even to the fifth inning.
And after the first two hitters — Kyle Schwarber and Darvish — were strikeout victims of Zack Godley, you had to start wondering if this game was going to wind up like Friday’s.
But Daniel Descalso drew a two-out walk. And Kris Bryant doubled him to third. Then something happened that you rarely see in baseball anymore — a balk. It was just the second balk by a Diamondbacks pitcher this year (the Cubs have none and N.L. teams as a whole have 17), scoring the first run of the game [VIDEO].
Anthony Rizzo followed with a double to make it 2-0 and after Godley ran a 2-0 count on Javier Baez, the D-backs intentionally passed him.
That was a mistake on their part, because David Bote then hit a 3-2 pitch in the general direction of the Grand Canyon [VIDEO].
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a baseball land in the second deck in that ballpark before. That ball was absolutely demolished:
So now it’s 5-0, five straight Cubs batters reaching base, capped by the three-run homer by Bote.
That seemed to energize Darvish. He came out for the bottom of the third and struck out the side in order, three pretty good hitters, David Peralta, Adam Jones and Christian Walker, on only 13 pitches.
In the fifth, Rizzo led off with a double, and one out later, Bote again [VIDEO].
Bote’s third homer of the season and second of the night gave him the first multi-homer game of his career.
Now it’s 7-0 and Darvish is still cruising. He’d only allowed one hit through the first five innings (though three walks), but Peralta ruined any thoughts of a scoreless outing with a solo homer in the sixth.
Overall, though, this was an excellent outing from Darvish: six innings, two hits, one run, four walks, eight strikeouts, 110 pitches. It was the first time he’d finished the sixth inning this year, the first time he’d gone over 100 pitches, and he matched his season high with the eight K’s. All in all, this was very, very encouraging for Yu and for the rotation in general. If this is what we can get from Darvish going forward, that makes the entire rotation stronger.
Could Taylor Davis have been a positive factor for Darvish? Davis has a reputation as a good pitch-framer in the minor leagues. Willson Contreras needs a day off from time to time. Perhaps Davis as Darvish’s personal catcher until Victor Caratini returns?
In the seventh, Anthony Rizzo joined the long-ball party [VIDEO].
That made it 8-1. Javier Baez followed with a double, and then the D-backs hit Bote [VIDEO].
Interesting to hear the perspective of the D-backs announcers, including former Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly, on that clip. Seriously, though, this sort of thing has to stop. The guy hits two home runs off your team’s pitchers — the response shouldn’t be “throw at him,” it should be “make better pitches.” As is the case in many of these kerfuffles, no punches were thrown and the game continued. Jason Heyward, who you can see in the middle of things, seemed more upset than Bote. Heyward took his revenge with an RBI single, completing the scoring for this game.
Kyle Ryan and Allen Webster combined for three scoreless innings in relief of Darvish. Ryan, in particular, looked impressive, throwing just 20 pitches for his two innings and striking out two.
Besides Bote’s big game, it was good to see Rizzo have a three-hit game with a home run. That improved his season slash line to .220/.360/.462, an .822 OPS which isn’t too far off his career norms. This March/April for Rizzo is much better than what he put on the board last year, and we still have two games remaining in April. Schwarber contributed two hits and has improved his slash line to .224/.280/.395, still not great, but he’s 4-for-8 with three doubles over his last three games. Baby steps.
The Cubs will go for the series win Sunday afternoon at Chase Field. Jose Quintana will start for the Cubs and Luke Weaver goes for the D-backs. Game time is 3:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via WGN. Sunday’s game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.