Before we talk about the great performance of Yu Darvish and the key hits by Kris Bryant in the Cubs’ 4-3 win over the Pirates Friday afternoon, I think we should start at the end of this game.
And that’s because I believe this is the first game in Wrigley Field history that was decided on a replay review.
Situation: Two out in the ninth, Kevin Newman at bat, Craig Kimbrel on the mound. Newman hits a ground ball to David Bote at third [VIDEO].
Newman was called safe by first-base umpire Nic Lentz, who said Anthony Rizzo was off first base when he caught the ball. But as you can see in the video, Rizzo’s foot stayed on the bag until the ball was in his mitt, and “out” was the call and the Cubs had their win.
Now, let me sing praises for Yu Darvish. This was by far his best start as a Cub. He retired the first 13 Pirates before Melky Cabrera singled with one out in the fifth. He allowed one more single in the sixth and a two-out walk before getting out of that inning with no runs given up. Six strong innings, two singles, one walk, eight strikeouts. Darvish was hitting 95 frequently on the Wrigley pitch-speed meter, he was spotting his cutter well and this is the kind of thing we thought we were getting when the Cubs signed him. Hope this is a sign of things to come.
Unfortunately, the Cubs could do nothing with Chris Archer in the first six innings, either. He allowed a one-out single by Javier Baez in the fourth and a walk one out later, and that was it — 10 strikeouts through six had the game scoreless entering the seventh.
Darvish departed in the bottom of the sixth for pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso. Seriously, I’d rather have seen Darvish take that at-bat even if he was going to be removed. Or have Tyler Chatwood hit. Descalso... I mean, it looks like he just cannot hit big-league pitching at all anymore. It’s time for the Cubs to cut their losses on him and just let him go, and put someone else, anyone else, on the 25-man roster. Heck, I’d bring Munenori Kawasaki back to replace him, and Kawasaki is 38 years old and hasn’t played at all, anywhere, since 2017.
Archer was left in to start the seventh, and Kris Bryant made him pay [VIDEO].
At the time, it looked like one run might be enough to win. But the Cubs weren’t done in the inning. Rizzo singled, Victor Caratini walked and Jason Heyward singled to load the bases. That brought up Robel Garcia [VIDEO].
Nice work by Garcia on that line-drive sac fly that made it 2-0. In Garcia’s first Wrigley game, he struck out twice, but did produce a run.
And the Cubs offense still wasn’t done. Albert Almora Jr. singled to re-load the bases and that brought up David Bote [VIDEO].
I don’t know if you can tell in that clip, but it was really loud at the ballyard during that at-bat, the full house really getting into it. Kyle Schwarber had a chance to really do some damage, but he hit into a double play. Kyle was 0-for-4 and seriously, Joe Maddon, you have got to get him out of the leadoff spot.
So at 3-0 with Pedro Strop coming in to throw the eighth things looked good. Strop got the first out on one pitch, but then allowed a double. A popup caught by Baez was the second out, but Strop walked Bryan Reynolds and then Starling Marte hit a baseball somewhere in the direction of Evanston:
Guess who got it? You’re right!
Pirates Starling Marte with a 3 run home run across Waveland Avenue to tie the game at 3 . Caught on the fly :) 13th on the season , 98th career for Marte . @pirates #cubs #wrigley pic.twitter.com/qZLOhN4ljW— BALLHAWK.NET (@Super_Dave) July 12, 2019
A baseball wound up on the field, but it wasn’t the home-run ball.
Randy Rosario entered to throw to Josh Bell, and that was cause for concern even though Bell doesn’t hit lefthanders quite as well as righthanders. Rosario got him to ground out and the game went to the last of the eighth tied. Bell was 0-for-4 in this game, so the Cubs staff cooled off one of the hottest hitters in the game.
With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Bryant walked and one out later, so did Caratini. That brought up Jason Heyward [VIDEO].
That was an outstanding piece of hitting, going the other way with that first-pitch fastball, and it was an aggressive send by Brian Butterfield, but KB beat the throw and scored the lead run.
That brought in Kimbrel to a loud ovation. Kimbrel’s fastball topped out at 95-96, and he got the first two outs via a fly ball and a grounder to second. That brought up Newman, and that’s where we came in.
This was a satisfying win and what Darvish did gives me real hope for him to have an outstanding second half. About the only thing to open the complaint department for is Strop’s outing. This is cause for concern:
Pedro Strop— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 12, 2019
2016 4 HR in 47.1 IP
2017 4 HR in 60.1 IP
2018 4 HR in 59.2 IP
2019 4 HR in 21.1 IP
2019 strikes again.
That’s... not good. I hope Pedro is 100 percent healthy, because he just doesn’t look like the solid Pedro we’ve known for the last six years.
But the Cubs put together a winning rally after blowing a three-run lead, and that is most definitely a good thing. The win puts them a full game up on the Brewers, pending Milwaukee’s game Friday night against the Giants at Miller Park.
And lastly, I hereby nominate Friday as the best weather day of the entire summer. Not a cloud in the sky, pleasant temperatures in the upper 70s, low humidity and a gentle breeze off Lake Michigan, the kind of day you’d like to bottle up and let it out in January when we really need it.
The Cubs will go for two in a row over the Pirates Saturday afternoon, and with Jon Lester going I think there’s a good chance of it. The Pirates have a much tougher time with lefthanders. Jordan Lyles will go for Pittsburgh. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage Saturday will be on WGN.