Chicago Cubs: Offense overshadowed by lackluster pitching on Saturday

(Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images) /

A lopsided Opening Day win gave Chicago Cubs fans plenty of optimism. The bats stayed hot on Saturday, but the other side of the ball is where big questions lie.

Chicago Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish made his return from an injury-plagued 2018 season on Saturday night. He started hot, striking out both Shin-Soo Choo and Rougned Odor to start the game.

Then, three walks later, Darvish’s pitch count had skyrocketed and he was simply trying to keep Texas (1-1) off the board. He struck out first-year Ranger Asdrubal Cabrera to prevent any damage. But that trend of inconsistency ran throughout his entire outing, which lasted just 2 2/3 innings. He walked a career-high seven and struck out four, allowing three runs.

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In a surprise move, Jose Quintana came in and stabilized the game a little bit, going four innings and giving up just two runs. But, as a whole, the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead. Carl Edwards Jr. came in and coughed up a three-run blast to Joey Gallo, giving the Rangers an 8-6 advantage they never relinquished.

Many questioned the Cubs’ offseason plan, or lack thereof when it comes to the bullpen. Just two games in and many of those very questions have already taken center stage.

Chicago pitchers walked 12 Rangers in total and, despite another strong offensive showing, the bullpen couldn’t get the job done. With Brandon Morrow sidelined until at least early May, this group lacks a shutdown presence in the late innings. Craig Kimbrel is still without a job and I can’t help but think there’s still time to pick up the phone and give him a call.

Edwards won’t always be that bad, but his bouts with wildness and implosions pop up far too often to be considered a key part of the bullpen. Brandon Morrow is still working his way back from surgery, which leaves only Pedro Strop to close games.

With how this pitching staff is set up, the starting pitching has to be good. It just has to be. We saw firsthand what happens when it’s not in Saturday’s contest in Arlington.

The Chicago Cubs, of course, weren’t going to go undefeated. No team ever has nor ever will, but when you control much of the game like that, it stinks when one gets away. Games like this are what teams will look back on at the end of the year if they don’t win the division or make the postseason.

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It’s up to another former Ranger, Cole Hamels, to get the job done in the Opening Series rubber match. Familiar foe and first-year Texas hurler Lance Lynn takes the ball for the Rangers. First pitch on Sunday is set for 3:05 p.m. CT.