In fact, Darvish threw quite well in this game, perhaps his best start as a Cub. He struck out 11 — that’s 11 strikeouts out of 16 outs recorded — and more importantly, didn’t walk anyone. He threw 67 strikes in 102 pitches before Joe Maddon lifted him with one out in the sixth and a 3-2 lead. This is all very encouraging. If Darvish can keep throwing this way, the Cubs should win most of the games he starts. He even had a hit, his first of the year. Summary for Darvish:
Darvish finishes with 11 K, no walks. First #Cubs pitcher with 11+ K and no walks since José Quintana's Cubs debut 7/16/2017 (12 K)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 16, 2019
Unfortunately, the Cubs bullpen, which has been so good over the last five weeks or so, had a bad evening. It happens. Let’s unpack this game.
The Reds scored a run in the first inning, but the Cubs got that back and more in the second. Albert Almora Jr. singled with two out and Addison Russell was the next hitter [VIDEO].
Russell’s two-run shot, his first of the year, made it 2-1 Cubs.
That ball took a line-drive track out of the ballpark off a hanging curveball:
After Darvish was lifted in the sixth, Mike Montgomery allowed a single to Jesse Winker, then struck out Yasiel Puig. Derek Dietrich laced a ball into the right-field corner, but two perfect throws easily nailed Winker at the plate [VIDEO].
A Reds error, a groundout and a sacrifice fly by Daniel Descalso made it 4-2, but Jose Iglesias homered off Brandon Kintzler in the bottom of the seventh to make it a one-run game again. But in the eighth, Kyle Schwarber put one in the seats [VIDEO].
Schwarber’s blast, his fifth of the season and first since April 30 at Seattle, gave the Cubs a two-run lead.
But they could not hold that lead. Kyle Ryan began the eighth by allowing a single to Joey Votto, and Carl Edwards Jr. was brought into the game to pitch to Eugenio Suarez. Unfortunately, this didn’t work, as Suarez hit a game-tying two-run homer off CJ.
The Cubs didn’t score in the ninth and Brad Brach threw a 1-2-3 last of the ninth, sending the game to extras.
That’s when a curious choice was made. Brach was allowed to bat for himself in the 10th, just the second plate appearance he had ever made in the big leagues. With Anthony Rizzo still nursing a bad back, the Cubs had a bench consisting of Willson Contreras and Mark Zagunis.
Honestly, if Zagunis isn’t going to play in situations like this, might as well send him back to Iowa. Sure, Brach actually got the bat on the ball, but he lined out to center field. Zagunis, at least, might have drawn a walk.
Kris Bryant and Javier Baez singled with two out, and then Joe Maddon sent Contreras up to bat for Schwarber when Reds manager David Bell brought in lefthander Amir Garrett. I mean, I get this to a certain extent, but Schwarber has actually hit lefthanders reasonably well this year (small sample size, but 6-for-21, .286/.423/.476). Maybe this was the situation to leave Schwarber in and let him hit against the lefty. Contreras hit a soft comebacker and the inning was over.
Votto walked with one out in the 10th, Suarez singled and Winker was intentionally passed to load the bases. That brought up Puig, whose long fly ball to center went for a game-winning single, ending the Cubs’ three-game winning streak. It was their first loss in extra innings this year after three wins.
It happens. This bullpen has been very, very good recently. Wednesday night, it wasn’t. But the Darvish outing gives hope for the future. Here is Joe Maddon’s summary [VIDEO].
The Cubs once again go for the series win Thursday evening. Jose Quintana will start for the Cubs and Luis Castillo will go for the Reds. Game time is again 5:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago.