It’s been clear for some time that the Cubs would have to begin winning games away from Wrigley Field in order to make the postseason for the fifth straight season.
Tuesday’s solid 5-2 win over the Mets in New York was a good first step to doing that through the last five weeks of the season. They got outstanding pitching from Yu Darvish and Javier Baez came out of a slump with a 3-for-3 night, including a home run and two doubles. Javy had a TOOTBLAN after the first of the two doubles. It came in the second inning [VIDEO].
It’s an old baseball saying: “Don’t make the first out of the inning at third base.” I understand Javy likes to be aggressive, but there was really no reason to take third on that hit. Give credit to the Mets defense on that one, too. Two perfect throws were needed to get Javy, so this one ranks fairly low on the TOOTBLAN meter.
Meanwhile, Darvish was mowing down Mets. He allowed a leadoff triple to Michael Conforto in the second inning, but got out of that one, albeit with more hard contact. Here is one of those outs, a nice catch by Javy [VIDEO].
Darvish also allowed a two-out single in the third, and then the Mets took the lead in the fourth on a home run by Pete Alonso. It was his 42nd of the season, and that is a new Mets franchise record.
Give Alonso a lot of credit. He’s a really good hitter and the likely N.L. Rookie of the Year.
The Cubs’ offense woke up in the fifth. Victor Caratini led off with a double and Addison Russell was the next hitter [VIDEO].
You can hear all the Cubs fans at Citi Field in that clip — they were loud! For Russell, it was his second home run in as many games, and eighth of the year, giving the Cubs a 2-1 lead.
In the sixth, Kris Bryant led off with a double and Javy batted next [VIDEO].
The ball bounced off the top of the padding on top of the wall and over for Baez’ 29th home run of the season, and the Cubs had a three-run lead.
It’s now 5-1 and, perhaps more importantly for the offense going forward, it was the fifth inning in which the Cubs had the leadoff hitter reach base.
Darvish came out to throw the eighth, and it became the first time he had recorded an out past the seventh inning as a Cub. He finished allowing just five hits and one walk (breaking a walkless streak that had stretched back to July 23), striking out seven, with the only run off him being Alonso’s home run. He threw 73 strikes in 104 pitches, just an outstanding outing. Then there’s this:
With today his last scheduled start of the month, the @Cubs' Yu Darvish finishes August with 42 Ks & 1 BB.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) August 28, 2019
The only others in the live-ball era (since 1920) to have that many Ks with no more than 1 BB in a month are Cliff Lee in Sep '13 (54/1) & Jeff Samardzija in May '17 (49/1)
Darvish has been very, very close to the ace the Cubs need right now. Last nine starts: 2.93 ERA, 0.759 WHIP, 72 strikeouts and three (!) walks in 55⅓ innings. The only thing that hasn’t gone well for him in this span is the long ball, with 11 homers allowed. But with those kinds of results, a few homers don’t hurt too much. Darvish leads the N.L. in home runs allowed with 31, but 19 of those have been solo homers. Fergie Jenkins used to talk about that, how he didn’t mind allowing a home run every now and then, as long as there weren’t other runners on base.
Also, Darvish says he has a new pitch:
Here's a look at the knucklecurve that Darvish used to K McNeil in the 8th inning. More velo than his usual curve. pic.twitter.com/pPGf6aQaYZ— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 28, 2019
So, Yu Darvish currently throws a...— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 28, 2019
And he has a 26.0 K/BB ratio dating back to the start of July.
It all seems to be working for Yu. Keep it up!
Brandon Kintzler threw the ninth, entering with a four-run lead. J.D. Davis hit a two-out solo shot off him to make it 5-2, but he got Joe Panik to ground out to end it and the Cubs had their third straight road win. Maybe things are actually turning around for the ballclub away from home. If so, the timing couldn’t be better.
Lastly, I have to say: I have never been so happy to see the Cubs wearing the blue alternate jerseys, after the Players Weekend uniform fiasco.
The Cubs remained three games behind the Cardinals, who defeated the Brewers Tuesday evening. St. Louis and Milwaukee will wrap up their series Wednesday afternoon, so the Cubs will know that result before they begin play against the Mets Wednesday evening.
The second game of this series at Citi Field will feature Kyle Hendricks going for the Cubs and Noah Syndergaard for the Mets. Game time is again 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago.