The Cubs rotation received both good and bad news on Wednesday afternoon.
National League Cy Young candidate and Cubs hurler Yu Darvish earned National League Pitcher of the Month honors for his work in the month of August. That should come as no surprise to anyone. The big right-hander went 5-0 with a 1.09 ERA, working to the tune of a 40-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 33 innings of work.
In short, it was just the latest evidence that the pitcher who made just eight starts back in 2018, his first year with Chicago, is nothing more than a distant memory. After a rocky start to the 2019 campaign, Darvish turned it all around in a big way, and has continued to do so here in 2020.
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His 1.3 WAR in the month tied for best among big league pitchers. While most of the Cubs’ starting rotation has faded after a scorching start to the season, the 34-year-old Darvish has just kept rolling, anchoring a rotation that’s facing more than its fair share of uncertainty of late.
The staff took another blow on Wednesday, with veteran left-hander Jose Quintana heading back to the IL with a lat injury. Of course, the southpaw missed a good chunk of the first half of the abbreviated 60-game schedule due to a freak accident where he cut a nerve in his pitching hand while washing dishes.
Quintana made just a pair of extended relief appearances before hitting the shelf again. He looked good in his debut against the Tigers before running into trouble in his third frame out of the pen. The veteran followed that up with a strong effort against Cincinnati over the weekend, striking out six and allowing just one run in three frames of work.
So, once again, first-year manager David Ross will have to find an answer to round out his pitching staff. Quintana hadn’t seen action as a starter just yet, but with Tyler Chatwood out with a forearm injury for the foreseeable future, it seemed likely the former Sox ace would return to the rotation this weekend against St. Louis.
Instead, Ross will have to piece it all together this weekend – where the Cubs play the rival Cardinals five times in four days, including a doubleheader on Saturday at Wrigley Field. Chicago enters action in Pittsburgh Thursday with a three-game edge over the Redbirds, so those five games could drastically alter the landscape in the National League Central.
On the year, Cubs starters rank seventh in the Senior Circuit with a 4.02 ERA. Their 185 2/3 innings of work trail only the Colorado Rockies among NL rotations – but with guys like Jon Lester and Alec Mills struggling recently, I suspect we’ll all be paying increasingly close attention to the starting five over the final four weeks of the regular season.