When the Cubs and White Sox met at Wrigley Field in August, the South Siders won two of three games behind 12 home runs. Those long balls supplied the entirety of their offense during that series, in fact.
On Friday, the Cubs did their best to replicate that performance.
The Cubs hit five home runs, leading them to a 10-0 win at Guaranteed Rate Field. One of those blasts was accompanied by an epic bat flip from Willson Contreras.
Yu Darvish, making his final start of the regular season, gave NL Cy Young Award voters a good final impression, shutting down the White Sox offense in seven innings.
With the win, the Cubs magic number to clinch the NL Central stands at one. It dropped prior to the game, when the Brewers beat the Cardinals in Game 1 of a doubleheader. The Cardinals took Game 2, so the earliest the Cubs can clinch is Saturday.
Quick takes from the game:
Cy Yu returns
After baseball returned from its COVID-19 shutdown, Darvish’s first start in a non-intrasquad game came July 20, against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. He allowed five runs in the first inning, resulting in the frame ending with only two outs.
He got much different results on Friday.
Darvish threw seven shutout innings, limiting the White Sox to three hits and one walk, striking out five. After an Adam Engel double to lead off the third, Darvish retired 15 of 17 batters. The White Sox’ last hit was a fifth inning single by Luis Robert.
Whether the outing is enough to vault Darvish up the Cy Young board remains to be seen. At the least, he ended the season on a high note, following a streak of three starts in which he allowed nine earned runs in 19 innings (4.26 ERA).
Darvish finishes the regular season with a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts, striking out 93 (14 walks) in 76 innings. He could start the Cubs’ postseason opener next Wednesday on normal rest, if the team chooses.
All that power
The Cubs entered Friday having hit 14 home runs all month (last in MLB), including just two (both by Anthony Rizzo) since Sept. 15.
They hit more than a quarter of their monthly total in the crosstown series opener. Kyle Schwarber (second inning), Contreras (third, ninth), Javy Báez (fourth) and Victor Caratini (sixth) went deep.
Schwarber and Báez hit solo blasts, Contreras a three-run blast and Caratini a two-run blast. Those were their first home runs since:
Schwarber — Sept. 1 against the Pirates
Contreras — Sept. 4 against the Cardinals
Báez — Sept. 15 against the Indians
Caratini’s was his first of the season.
Contreras was plunked in the seventh after his bat flip, leading to a series of White Sox ejections. He took White Sox infielder Yolmer Sánchez deep in the ninth.
With the Cubs leading 10-0 in the ninth, Cubs shortstop Javier Báez took his plate appearance batting left-handed.
Báez, who is a left-hander off the baseball diamond, hit a double into the right-center gap. Of course he did.
"I'm mad that everybody's mad. I'm having fun, and we're still in first place. We’re struggling and we’re still in first place. We've just got to have fun. We've just got to compete. We are who we are, but we've got to work for what we want — that is the championship." –Javier Báez pregame Friday.
The Cubs and Sox meet Saturday night at 6:10 p.m. Jon Lester (3-2, 4.40 ERA) and Dane Dunning (2-0, 3.19 ERA) are the probable starters.