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Cubs 8, Reds 6: A gutsy Yu Darvish, home runs, and Tyler Chatwood... closer?

Hey, who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that Tyler Chatwood had the stuff and the right mental makeup to close games for the Cubs.

Just two days ago, Joe Maddon said “nope”:

“I would say that if you were to get a chance (to close a game) with us, that time would be because any of the other guys aren’t available,” Maddon said Thursday. “That would be why he would do it.

“He has the stuff to do it. But then again, he’s just different. It’s a different role to be in. A lot of times people jump to conclusions outside the confines (of Wrigley Field), and you have to listen to it. It’s not as easy as you think it is.”

To some extent, I agree with Maddon here. It is a different role, yet one I thought Chatwood was suited for. And maybe it was just that “none of the other guys were available.” But there he was, in the ninth inning with a two-run lead. After two singles, a mound visit occurred, and it was at that point Chatwood dialed up his velocity. He induced a double-play grounder on a 97 mile per hour fastball, then threw two of those to Yasiel Puig, who flied to right and the Cubs had an 8-6 win over the Reds, and Chatwood his first save as a Cub.

Could it be the first of many? I suppose we’ll see going forward. But I thought this was a great first step for Chatwood into perhaps assuming that role.

The afternoon turned sunny and warm after forecasts of rain, which never happened. And the wind was blowing out at Wrigley Field at a reported 16 miles per hour, which got home-run balls going. Yu Darvish served up one to Tucker Barnhart after a second-inning walk, making it 2-0 Reds.

Albert Almora Jr. got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning [VIDEO].

That ball: Crushed!

The home run was AA’s sixth of the year. That’s more than he hit all of 2018, and just two short of his career high set in 2017. He has absolutely earned the full-time center field job.

Darvish seemed to settle down for a couple of innings and the Cubs went to work in the fourth. Victor Caratini singled leading off the inning. Almora bunted, presumably for a hit, but was thrown out and given a sacrifice. One batter later, that didn’t matter [VIDEO].

Addison Russell’s second homer of the year was his first at Wrigley, and made it 3-2 Cubs. Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant singled and then Anthony Rizzo made it 5-2 [VIDEO].

That ball didn’t miss being a three-run homer by much, but a two-run double is just fine anytime.

Unfortunately, Darvish gave a couple of them back in the fifth. He allowed two singles leading off the inning, got a double play, and then Yasiel Puig put one on Waveland, and I’m showing you this [VIDEO] for a specific reason.

Slow that down or stop it at about :06. You’ll see a woman, a Cubs gameday employee, walking by, about to toss something in a trash can. She nearly got hit in the head by Puig’s homer — it missed her only by a foot or two. She had no idea anything like this was happening. Also, this happened to the ball:

Seriously, folks, you get a home run ball on the street, you keep it. Doesn’t matter who hits it, in my opinion.

It’s 5-4 heading to the bottom of the fifth, when Jason Heyward joined the homer parade [VIDEO].

The wind got that one, but it counts the same in the boxscore, and now it’s 6-4 Cubs. The Reds got one off Darvish in the sixth to make it 6-5. Michael Lorenzen shut down the Cubs with two perfect innings in relief. and Darvish had struck out Puig with some 97 mile per hour heat to end the top of the seventh.

That was exactly 100 pitches for Darvish and I figured he was done, but Joe seemed determined to save the bullpen and sent him out to start the eighth. Big mistake, as it turned out, as Derek Dietrich homered to tie the game and Jose Iglesias blooped a single, and that was the end of Darvish’s afternoon.

You know, the numbers don’t look great (12 hits, six runs in seven innings), but I thought it was a pretty good outing for Yu, all things considered, including the wind. He threw 82 strikes in 108 pitches and had good velocity overall. It was the first time he threw seven full innings as a Cub. His ERA won’t show it, but I still think he’s making pretty good progress. Darvish agrees:

Kyle Ryan was summoned to face Tucker Barnhart and struck him out, and then Dillon Maples entered. He was having trouble commanding his slider to pinch-hitter Jose Peraza, who walked, but during that at-bat Caratini threw Peraza out trying to steal, then Maples struck out Nick Senzel to end the inning. Check out the pitch selection to Senzel:

That is what will make Maples a successful big league reliever, being able to command that slider, which is almost unhittable.

The Cubs went to work in the bottom of the eighth. Almora walked with one out. That alone is notable — it was just AA’s eighth walk this year and third this month in 85 PA in May. Russell laid down a perfect bunt and beat it out for a hit, and that brought up David Bote, who had entered the game on a double switch when Maples came in. Bote seems to thrive on these situations, and he came through [VIDEO].

That made it 7-6, and Schwarber added a sacrifice fly to plate Russell with an insurance run

And then, enter Chatwood to a generic “Cubs Bullpen” video, and that’s where we came in. If Chatwood can do this on a regular basis, maybe he gets his own entry video. I’d like that. I continue to think he has the stuff and the attitude to be a successful closer. And on days when he’s not closing — pinch hitting, perhaps? (He’s 2-for-4 as a PH this year, both doubles.)

Maybe it’s too soon to project Chatwood as a closer. But he got the job done Saturday, even after giving up two hits. It’s certainly worth trying him again in that role, I’d think. Look what happened after the two hits and a mound visit from pitching coach Tommy Hottovy:

When Chatwood finally trusted that fastball, he got outs with it. I’m sure Joe won’t promise anything going forward, but I definitely liked what I saw in this one.

At this writing the Brewers are losing in the late innings to the Phillies. If Philadelphia’s lead holds up, the Cubs’ lead over Milwaukee will increase to 2½ games. The Cubs’ other division rivals, the Cardinals and Pirates, play Saturday evening.

The Cubs will go for the series win Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field in the homestand finale. Jose Quintana will start for the Cubs and Tanner Roark goes for the Reds. Game time again is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage Sunday will be via WGN.