You didn’t think the Cubs would win every single game from now to the end of the season, did you?
Sure, that would have been nice. Sometimes the other team plays better.
Here’s what I can’t figure out about Darvish’s 13-K performance, which included eight in a row. The latter broke a franchise record. More on that later.
Darvish didn’t throw a single fastball among his first eight pitches of the game. By then the Reds already had a 1-0 lead on a single by Josh VanMeter and a double by Joey Votto. This seemed like an odd pitching choice. When he finally threw some four-seamers, he struck out Eugenio Suarez.
Another fastball was smashed out of the yard by Aristides Aquino and the Reds had a 3-0 lead. Two cutters resulted in a single by Tucker Barnhart and that brought Tommy Hottovy out for a visit.
That’s when Darvish began to turn on the K’s. He struck out Phillip Ervin and Brian O’Grady.
The Cubs, who have scored a ton of first-inning runs the last few days, did it again. With one out, Nicholas Castellanos walked. That brought up Kyle Schwarber [VIDEO].
That ball missed being a home run by about three feet, hitting the wall just below the basket. Castellanos scored and it was 3-1.
After a fly ball to center began the second, Darvish began striking out Reds. Every single one of them through the fourth. That’s eight straight, which is a single-game record for the Cubs franchise. The previous record, seven, had been held by Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Jamie Moyer (now where’s the last time you saw those three mentioned in a single sentence?). Kyle Farnsworth, Juan Cruz and Wood also struck out eight straight, but over multiple games.
The Cubs shaved one more run off the Reds’ lead in the third. Ben Zobrist was hit by a pitch leading off the inning and was forced at second by Castellanos. Kris Bryant struck out (and had a bad evening at the plate, with three K’s), and Schwarber batted next [VIDEO].
You know, Kyle can motor pretty well. His triple — Kyle’s third of the year! — made it 3-2. Unfortunately, Schwarber was stranded at third base.
Darvish finally recorded an out that broke the K streak leading off the fifth, and it was thanks to great defense from Bryant [VIDEO].
Unfortunately, the Reds posted a fourth run offf Darvish in that inning on a single, followed by another walk and hit after Yu had recorded the second out.
Overall, was Darvish’s start a great outing or a mediocre one? The 13 strikeouts were great and matched a team record:
Yu Darvish joins Mark Prior (Sept. 16-21, 2003) and Kerry Wood (May 6-11, 1998) as the only pitchers in Cubs history with 13+ K in consecutive starts.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 18, 2019
But he also allowed four runs in seven innings, which, while not terrible, isn’t all that good either. One more Darvish note:
Yu Darvish of the @Cubs struck out 8 straight batters tonight, making him the 3rd pitcher to do that in a game this season (also Jacob deGrom and Lucas Giolito).— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) September 18, 2019
This is the 1st time in MLB history that has happened 3 times in the same season.#EverybodyIn
Meanwhile, the Cubs were shut down the rest of the evening by Gray, Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias. From the fourth inning on they had just four baserunners (three singles and a walk), and just one past first base, pinch-hitter Tony Kemp, who walked with two out in the seventh and went to third on a single by Zobrist.
Sometimes you just have to tip the cap to the other guy. Sonny Gray is a really good pitcher and it showed in this game. This is impressive:
Sonny Gray (6.2ip, 4h, 2er, 3bb, 9k, 102 pitches) tonight made his 32nd consecutive start allowing 6 hits or fewer, a new Major League record, excluding "openers." He was sharing the record with Nolan Ryan.— Reds Media Relations (@RedsPR) September 18, 2019
Pretty good company there, I’d say. Five of those 32 starts have been against the Cubs — his most vs. any team in that 32-start span — and he allowed, in order, five, four, two, two and four hits in those five outings.
The results from the other games Tuesday night involving the teams the Cubs are competing against for postseason spots were mixed. The Cardinals lost to the Nationals in St. Louis. That’s both good and bad. It’s good because the Cubs lost no ground to St. Louis and they remain two games out of first place in the N.L. Central. It’s bad because they lost ground to the Nats for the first wild-card spot and now trail by 1½ games.
In Milwaukee, the Brewers defeated the Padres, so the Cubs are now tied with the Brewers for the second wild-card spot.
11 games remain. That’s both a lot of time and not much. This could be the wildest finish to a Cubs playoff run in our lifetimes. Fasten your seat belts!
Jon Lester will start for the Cubs in the series finale against the Reds. Jon’s had a rough time lately. He will simply have to be better. His opponent will be Tyler Mahle. Game time is again 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via WGN.