There's a strong case to be made that Yu Darvish just had his best start in a Cubs uniform despite the team's 6-5 loss in Cincinnati.
The 32-year-old pitcher didn't pitch deep enough Wednesday night to earn a quality start and the bullpen blew a late lead (and then coughed up the game in the 10th inning), but this was only the second time in 17 outings with the Cubs that Darvish did not walk a single batter.
It was also the first time in those 17 starts in which he struck out at least 10 batters, racking up 11 whiffs in 5.1 innings. He needed 102 pitches to get those 16 outs, but he threw 66 percent strikes and allowed only 2 runs.
Those are all very encouraging signs for Darvish after he walked at least 3 batters in five straight starts entering Wednesday. He gave up 11 free passes in only 8 innings across a pair of starts on the last homestand, failing to pitch beyond the fourth inning in either appearance.
Darvish has been a focal point of this team all season, but that's been especially true over the last few weeks as the Cubs pitching staff has been on cruise control. Even with his sharp outing Wednesday, Darvish is still only 2-3 with a 5.14 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 42 innings this season.
Joe Maddon has talked a lot recently about how he and the Cubs want Darvish to attack hitters more and not try to be so perfect or fine with his pitches. Last time out against the Marlins, the right-hander said he felt like he had a better mental approach, but his command — namely of the fastball — was off.
Against the Reds, Darvish threw 20 of his 32 fastballs for strikes, but actually threw his cutter more than any other pitch — locating 29 of 38 cutters for strikes on the evening.
It was just one start, but Wednesday is proof of the tantalizing potential Darvish has and why the Cubs signed him to a six-year deal last February.
His next start is slated for Monday, when he's lined up to pitch opposite Jake Arrieta in the series opener with the Phillies at Wrigley Field.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.