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Cubs 6, Pirates 3: It could happen to Yu

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The Japanese righthander put together an outing reminiscent of his great 2019 second half.

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Yu Darvish walked the first hitter he faced Friday night, Adam Frazier of the Pirates, and every single one of you had to be thinking, “Here we go again,” because walks helped ruin Darvish’s first outing of 2020.

And then he did this [VIDEO].

First-base umpire Bill Welke called Frazier safe, but the Cubs challenged and won the review, as it was pretty obvious once the video was slowed down that Anthony Rizzo had tagged Frazier before Frazier’s hand touched the base.

That seemed to energize Darvish. From then on he was the dominant Darvish that we saw the last half of last year. The walk was the only one he issued and he struck out seven and allowed just two singles in six solid innings. The Cubs put together a varied offense and defeated the Pirates 6-3 in the first of a five-game homestand. Here’s how good Darvish’s outing was:

The Cubs got on the board in the third inning. After Kris Bryant walked and Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch, Javier Baez singled in KB to make it 1-0.

In the fourth, Jason Kipnis extended the lead to 2-0 [VIDEO].

It was the first Cubs homer (and No. 124 of his career) for the native of north suburban Northbrook, and that ball went a long way:

Fun fact about Kipnis’ homer:

The Cubs put two more on the board in the fifth, and it could have been more. KB and Rizzo walked, but Rizzo got himself picked off first base. After Javy flied to right for the second out, Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras walked to load the bases. Jason Heyward then came through on an 0-2 pitch [VIDEO].

It’s 4-0 now and Darvish is still cruising. He finished six with that 4-0 lead, and the Pirates didn’t score off Kyle Ryan in the seventh, but pushed across a run off Rowan Wick (charged to Ryan) with two out in the eighth.

I want to note here an excellent at-bat Heyward had in the seventh, even though it ended in an out:

Five straight foul balls on a 2-2 count. Sure, it didn’t produce a hit or any runs, but it’s nice to see J-Hey having an at-bat like this. Heyward hasn’t hit much yet this year; perhaps this and the two-run single will help him get out of his current .211/.286/.211 (4-for-19) funk.

A walk to Kipnis and two singles loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth, and then Rizzo extended the lead [VIDEO].

It’s 6-1 now, out of a save situation, but David Ross figured it would be a good time to give Craig Kimbrel some work. What could possibly...

And yes, the complaint department is now open again.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Kimbrel. Len and JD suggested he might be tipping his pitches, and that’s entirely possible, because there’s nothing wrong with his velocity. Every one of the 10 fastballs he threw went at least 95, and several of them touched 97. Two of them left the yard (Josh Bell and Colin Moran), and all of the balls hit off Kimbrel were smashed with high exit velocity:

Also:

None of that is any good. Back to the drawing board for Kimbrel, who did not get a single swing-and-miss Friday night. He got only one in his previous outing last Monday, so that’s one swing-and-miss in 46 pitches thrown so far this season. Here are the results from the 11 batters he’s faced:

Walk, groundout (wild pitch during this at-bat), walk, walk (stolen base during this at-bat), hit by pitch, walk, swinging strikeout, lineout, home run, home run, groundout, lineout, groundout.

Even Dillon Maples wasn’t quite that bad, and Maples has been removed from the big-league roster. Obviously you can’t do that with Kimbrel, unless he’s injured. But I’m not sure Ross can trust him in save situations, not until whatever’s wrong with Kimbrel gets fixed.

All right, let’s now close the complaint department door, because other than Kimbrel’s outing this was a well-played game by the guys in blue. A good, varied offense and a dominant start from Yu Darvish, exactly the way we hoped things would go.

The teams will meet again Saturday evening at 7:15 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field. Tyler Chatwood, who was very good in his first 2020 start, will go for the Cubs and Mitch Keller gets the start for the Bucs. TV coverage again is on Marquee Sports Network.