It’s getaway day of a Colorado series so let’s begin by discussing all the positive things that happened for the Cubs today…
Is Kris Bryant’s head OK?
Beyond that? I got nothing. Like this game after three innings, let’s get it over with…
What You Need to Know: You can tell how well a Yu Darvish start went based on how often the Sun-Times’ Gordon Whittenmyer mentions his salary. And I’m guessing there’s a 99 percent chance that Gordon’s lede for today will be:
“$126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million. $126 million.”
It will also be his most readable column of the year.
(I’m pretty sure that when Gordon’s kids ask him for a bedtime story with a happy ending, he reads them his recap of the Ian Stewart trade.)
In retrospect, the Cubs’ recent run of great pitching and five-game winning streak were especially fortunate because it allowed them to bank several wins in the midst of what has turned out to be an interminable offensive slump. The way the lineup has been going recently, any game where the starter didn’t have his A game was going to be a clunker.
This was that clunker.
Yu Darvish was awful. (More on that anon…) Anthony Rizzo was good. Nolan Arenado (twice), Trevor Story, and Chris Ianetta hit long home runs. And on a day where David Kaplan endlessly plugged his new interview with Sammy Sosa, the team made an attempt to make him feel welcome again by playing like the 1997 Cubs.
Next Level: Akira Kurosawa’s Ran is acclaimed for being one of the bloodiest and most ultraviolent films ever made. And today, in honor of his countryman’s contribution to classic cinema, Yu Darvish decided to adapt it for the pitcher’s mound.
You’ve got to give him points for being faithful to the source material.
Remember a couple starts ago when Darvish walked the .000 hitting pitcher Tyler Anderson in Colorado and it spelled his doom? Well, today in the second inning Darvish walked Pat Valaika. Who entered the day slashing .096/.145/.154.
On four pitches.
What the cuss?
Looking that on-base percentage again, I’m going to assume that plate appearance doubled the number of balls Valaika has seen all year.
This game was a combination of everything that has bedeviled Darvish to this point in the season. Overreliance on his fastball/cutter without mixing in offspeed stuff. Occasionally getting squeezed by the plate umpire when he did find a corner or the top of the zone.
And more maddeningly: difficulty getting on the same page with Willson Contreras. There were times where Contreras flashed so many different fingers while an impassive Darvish just stared at him, it felt like the only way he could signal for the right pitch was if he became Antonio Alfonseca.
When Darvish did throw strikes, his pitches ended up catching way too much of the zone. On days when he’s on, Darvish’s stuff is the best possible illustration of “electric” and it moves to the point where you wonder how anybody ever hits him.
Today was most definitely not one of those days.
Top Play (WPA): OK, Since the 2018 Cubs don’t really deserve a recap this acidic yet, here’s a genuinely good thing that happened: Anthony Rizzo looked more like Anthony Rizzo than at any time since Opening Day.
In a continuing effort to lift his numbers out of “four-pitch walk from Yu Darvish” territory, Rizzo scalded a line drive single in the first that even a heavily shifted Daniel Castro couldn’t touch in short right field.
And then in the fourth, Rizzo got ahold of a 2-0 inside fastball, lofted it high in the air, and watched as it carried into the right field party deck seats (+.067). It was his second windblown home run in two days but after watching him crush numerous pitches directly into Lorenzo Cain’s glove in the Milwaukee series, you try telling him he doesn’t deserve a bit of good luck.
Kris Bryant later homered as well. Hopefully, this is a positive sign because the next time the Cubs get hot, these two will likely need to be the ones carrying them.
Bottom Play (WPA): It’s a toss-up. Nolan Arenado’s first home run of the day (-.165) or Darvish’s first pitch of the ballgame.
Up Next: Hey, did you know the Cubs were still 5-2 on this homestand? I looked it up and that’s still pretty good! After an off day that it sounds like we all need tomorrow, they head to St. Louis for a Jose Quintana/Miles Mikolas matchup.
Lead photo courtesy Kamil Krzaczynski—USA Today Sports