Can the Chicago Cubs build on the momentum from Friday’s win?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs got timely hitting, strong defense and a dominant start from Yu Darvish Friday. Will it be the spark that propels the team moving forward?

So far, the Chicago Cubs remain undefeated in the second half. Sure, we’re one game into the back half of the regular season slate, but with Yu Darvish starting at home, where he’s struggled immensely, walking away with a win feels pretty big.

Take into consideration the Cubs dropped three of four prior to the All-Star Break to this same Pittsburgh Pirates club – in a series that was brimming with bad blood – and Friday’s series-opening win at Wrigley Field seems like it could light a fire under this club.

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"“Anytime, anywhere, I’ll take that,” manager Joe Maddon told after the win. “He’s getting real comfortable in his Chicago Cubs skin right now. He’s just a different cat.”"

Darvish twirled an absolute gem, allowing just two hits over six scoreless innings – and stealing his share of headlines after the ballgame – and rightfully so. In his admittedly brief time with the Cubs, I’ve never seen the right-hander have such a good feel for his entire repertoire.

He mixed speeds, constantly changed the eye level of opposing hitters, making the Pirates look simply overmatched all afternoon.

Chicago’s offense couldn’t get Darvish the run support he needed to get his first win as a Cub at Wrigley Field, but seeing him take the ball and set the tone for the team out of the gate was, for lack of a better term, pretty awesome.

What’s going on with Strop?

Pedro Strop hasn’t been the same guy this year – and everyone is aware of that fact. He’s missing spots and hasn’t lit up the radar game like he has for the last half-decade. Both of these issues were on full display in the top of the eighth, when Starling Marte crushed a mammoth three-run home run.

That blast erased the Cubs’ 3-0 advantage – and the game suddenly had a much different feel. Chicago had just hung a three-spot on starter Chris Archer, who missed Darvish blow-for-blow for most of the afternoon. But with one swing, Marte erased that lead and, once again, left us all wondering if this is the new norm for Strop.

On the year, the longtime setup man carries a dismal 5.06 ERA – and he’s now allowed four home runs, the same number he allowed annually from 2016 to 2018. The problem? He’s thrown roughly a third of the innings this year that he turned in during each of those campaigns.

That’s the short version, when it comes to Strop. He’s allowed a dozen hits in 21 1/3 innings this year – and a third of them have left the yard. That’s a problem.

Heyward does it all – again

Watching Jason Heyward enjoy the success he’s had this year has been the high point for me this year as a fan. People wrote this guy off, especially at the plate, after a few tough years – and this year, he’s turning in one of his best offensive seasons in years.

The veteran outfielder and five-time Gold Glove winner did it again Friday, collecting two hits – including the eventual game-winning single in the bottom of the eighth inning that plated Kris Bryant. That’s not to mention the multiple defensive plays he made out in right field, either.

There’s no telling if Chicago will turn Friday’s win into the start of something bigger. But the team played a cleaner, crisper brand of baseball, went 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position and got their best start of Darvish’s Cubs career.

Next. Putting grades to the Cubs' first-half performances. dark

There are worse ways to start the second half. Just ask the rest of the National League Central.