One of these days it’s gonna happen. You know it, I know it, and Yu knows it.
What’s gonna happen? Yu Darvish is going to throw a no-hitter. Twice before Darvish came to the Cubs, he had one broken up in the ninth inning, and Thursday evening he went until one out in the seventh before Justin Smoak sent a no-doubt-about-it home run into right field to break it up. The Cubs eventually won the game 4-2 over the Brewers, their third straight win and seventh straight at Wrigley Field.
Sometimes Darvish struggles with command early and runs long counts, resulting in him having to depart games long before he should. This was not the case Thursday. He was sharp from the first pitch on, striking out four batters in the first two innings. Darvish wound up with 11 K’s overall, the fifth time as a Cub and 25th time in his career he struck out at least that many.
The Cubs, meanwhile, were fashioning an early lead. Nico Hoerner, pressed into service at leadoff after Kris Bryant was scratched, led off the first with a double. Two groundouts scored him for a 1-0 lead, and in the second inning Kyle Schwarber made it 2-0 [VIDEO].
That was Schwarber’s third of the year. It didn’t go too far, but far enough:
Meanwhile, Darvish kept mowing down Brewers. The only Milwaukee baserunners through six were Christian Yelich, who was hit by a pitch, and two who reached via walks.
The Cubs extended their lead in the bottom of the sixth. Willson Contreras led off with a walk, and one out later Ian Happ drove him in [VIDEO].
On the clip, Pat Hughes says Contreras got the green light... I’m not so sure about that, but Willson was not going to be stopped on that play and was safe on a very good slide. Happ took third on the throw and David Bote then singled for a 4-0 lead [VIDEO].
Darvish had thrown 92 pitches through six and Casey Sadler had begun to warm up and there was some question whether Darvish would start the seventh. But he did come out to begin the frame and struck out Avisail Garcia. Then came Smoak’s homer to break up the no-no, but David Ross let Yu finish the inning. He K’d Omar Narvaez, his 11th, and got Ben Gamel on a fly to left to complete seven, yet another outstanding outing from a Cubs starting pitcher in 2020. Cubs starters so far this year: 95⅓ innings, 2.55 ERA, 0.902 WHIP, 19 walks, 86 strikeouts. As for Darvish:
Yu Darvish with Cubs...— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 14, 2020
1st 26 starts (2018-19):
.228 AVG (117-513)
Last 17 starts (2019-20):
.192 AVG (73-381)
Sadler did eventually get in the game, throwing a scoreless eighth, and Rowan Wick got the save opportunity. A single and double made it 4-2 and brought Tommy Hottovy to the mound. Whatever he said must have worked, because Wick got the final out on a fly to left and the Cubs had won the opening game of a series for the seventh time this season. Wick also got helped out by this terrific play by Bote:
Everyone in Chicago wants a friend with a nice Bote. ⛵️ pic.twitter.com/NTzO7F71nl— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 14, 2020
Darvish has, at last, become the pitcher the Cubs thought they were getting before 2018, as noted in the numbers quoted by Jordan Bastian above. This season, in four starts, he has a 1.88 ERA and 0.750 WHIP, with four (!) walks and 27 strikeouts in 24 innings. More on Darvish:
Day-of-game data is often cleaned up later on. Tonight, Statcast had Darvish with 55 cutters, ranging from 79 mph to 94 mph. He said the splitter (89-91) often is misread as a cutter. His "hard cutter" will reach velo at lower end of the four-seam range. pic.twitter.com/FSIr7ixZXb— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 14, 2020
That splitter was almost unhittable Thursday evening. Look at the movement on this pitch!
Yu Darvish, Filthy 89mph Splitter. pic.twitter.com/cUAP618rtx— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 14, 2020
The Cubs, meanwhile, matched the best 16-game start in franchise history at 13-3. Only the 1907 Cubs — World Series winners, I might remind you — equaled that. The 1907 team got to 16-3 before they lost a game, so this year’s bunch has something to shoot for. Overall, the 1907 Cubs went 107-45, a .704 winning percentage which would translate to 42 wins in a 60-game season. Can this year’s team do that? Before the year started I wouldn’t have said “yes,” but the 2020 Cubs seem like they’re on a mission. I wouldn’t put it past them, especially since they’re the only team in the NL Central currently with a winning record.
One note on Fox’s broadcast: I was glad to see them (mostly) ditch the fake fans they’ve been inserting. I only saw that used on one shot, and it wasn’t a game-action shot. Fox has been rightly criticized for this, and I’m happy to see them stop using it. Having fake crowd noise — that’s okay, as it makes the broadcast sound more realistic. Fake fans? Leave that for our simCubs in MLB The Show.
The Cubs will go for two straight over the Brewers and four straight overall Friday evening at Wrigley Field. Tyler Chatwood will start for the Cubs and Brandon Woodruff will go for the Brewers. Game time is 7:15 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Brewers market territories. It should be noted that the MLB Network broadcast will be a bit different than usual:
For the first time in MLB Network history, Greg Amsinger, Dan Plesac, and Harold Reynolds will call an MLB Network Showcase matchup using unique elements from MLB Network’s signature program MLB Tonight when the Milwaukee Brewers visit the Chicago Cubs live at 8:00 p.m. EDT. At different points of the night and in trademark MLB Tonight style, the telecast will shift to a two-box format and whip around to live look-ins of key moments from other games across Major League Baseball. Amsinger, Plesac, and Reynolds, who have been part of the MLB Tonight lineup since 2009, will do rapid demonstrations on key plays from the game in Studio 42, MLB Network’s replica baseball field studio, and they will host in-game interviews with personnel from the Brewers and Cubs throughout the game. MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi will also contribute to the telecast on-site from Wrigley Field.
Hope that makes sense, and hope that they still cover enough of the Cubs game to make sense for those of you watching outside the market.