Yu Darvish arguably turned in his best start as a member of the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, tossing eight innings of one-run ball against the New York Mets.
Although Yu Darvish was admittedly disappointed to see his walk-less streak come to an end in the fifth inning, I, for one, was totally fine with it. The Chicago Cubs hurler might be able to cut down on the long-ball tendencies that have plagued him this year if he worked out of the zone a little more often. On Tuesday, he looked like a Cy Young-caliber pitcher, mixing his entire repertoire masterfully while shutting down the New York Mets.
"“He really mixed it up well,” Mets skipper Mickey Callaway told The Athletic (subscription required). “We saw six different pitches. He was keeping it below the zone and throwing enough strikes to make it effective. He pitched a heck of a game.”"
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Darvish pitched eight full innings for the first time since 2017, scattering five hits, one walk and striking out seven. The only damage done came via likely National League Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso‘s 42nd home run of the year in the fourth inning. Getting roughed up by Alonso is hardly a knock on Darvish – he’s enjoying a historic rookie campaign.
But back to the Chicago right-hander.
For months now, we’ve been talking about how good Darvish’s stuff has been. But heading into Tuesday’s series opener against the Mets, he’d allowed at least three home runs in two of his four August outings. He has to find a way to be more effective and keep the ball in the yard if the Cubs are planning on making it back to the postseason for the fifth consecutive season.
Since the All-Star Break, despite the home runs, Darvish carries a 2.93 ERA – a mark that trails just one other Cubs starter, Kyle Hendricks (2.65). During that stretch, he’s turned in an astounding 72-to-3 strikeout-to-walk mark.
As if Darvish didn’t already have an impressive enough arsenal, he told reporters after the game that he notched a couple strikeouts on a knuckle curve he learned from Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel. And, in case you live under a rock, that’s one of the dirtiest pitches in the game today.
"“My stuff was not sharp enough,” Darvish told MLB.com. “But just the game plan and pitch selection was, for me, perfect.”"
Regardless of whether or not Chicago ends up winning the division or has to play in a one-game Wild Card play-in, at this much, one thing is perfectly clear: Yu Darvish is pitching like an ace and may very well be the guy getting the ball with the Cubs season on the line.
Boy, who would have thought we’d be saying that a year ago? Certainly not me. Time will tell, but hopefully Yu Darvish keeps cutting down on the home runs and continues displaying what made him the most sought-after free agent pitcher two years ago.