Chicago Cubs hope for a stronger second half from Yu Darvish

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

Yu Darvish takes the ball to open the second half on Friday, with the Chicago Cubs hoping for more consistency from their high-ceilinged right-hander.

On one hand, the Chicago Cubs have gotten more out of Yu Darvish in year two than they did in the first season of his six-year, $126 million contract. But, on the other hand, the quality has been lacking – especially at home, where he’ll take the ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday afternoon.

Last year, Darvish made a grand total of eight starts – never throwing a pitch in the second half. If he can establish some sort of rhythm this season, it’ll go a long way in solidifying a Cubs rotation that’s currently without its best member, injured left-hander Cole Hamels.

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To date in 2019, Darvish carries a 5.01 ERA and 1.340 WHIP – the latter of which is comprised largely of free passes. He’s walked more batters than all but four National League hurlers – and may very well wind up being the second Cubs pitcher in as many years to lead the league in base on balls.

Opponents aren’t racking up the hits against Darvish – they’ve hit just .225 to this point – including a sub-.200 mark over the last month.

But what they have done particularly well is take the righty deep. He’s allowed a staggering 20 home runs this year – the most in the Senior Circuit – and rapidly approaching his career-high of 27, which he set in 2017.

But the elephant in the Friendly Confines Friday? Darvish is still looking for his first win as a member of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. He’s been shelled at home since signing with the club, this year pitching to the tune of a winless record and 6.23 ERA. With a strong outing against the surging Pirates, though, he could start to shift the narrative.

"“In my last game my velocity was up to 99 mph, and my breaking ball was there,” Darvish told the Chicago Tribune. “Now I’m feeling good physically, mentally and mechanically. So I’m still looking for that (strong) second half.”"

On paper, the Cubs boast one of the most promising (and experienced) starting rotations in all of baseball. But so far, they’ve struggled to put it together on a consistent basis. You feel good about Kyle Hendricks and what he brings to the table. Jon Lester is notorious for taking things up a notch under pressure and getting the job done, too.

Next. Maddon managing for his job in coming months. dark

But with Hamels sidelined for the time being, Jose Quintana turning in all kinds of starts this year and some combination of Adbert Alzolay, Mike Montgomery and Tyler Chatwood rounding out the rotation, now is the time for Darvish to step up and buckle down.