Tyler Chatwood achieved what no other Cubs starting pitcher has this season: consecutive strong starts.
His performance in the Cubs’ 4-3 win over the Pirates Saturday certainly qualified.
The Cubs are part way through their second turn in the starting rotation. The first time was a rousing success, with all but Yu Darvish surpassing expectations.
The second began with Kyle Hendricks allowing six runs in 4 1/3 innings, a far cry from his complete game shutout on Opening Day. Then, Darvish rebounded with a masterful showing on Friday.
Chatwood followed that up with the consistency the Cubs have been craving from him since he signed as a free agent in December 2017. Two starts may be too few to be a pattern, but they are a promising sign.
The Cubs improved to 6-2 on the season.
Here’s more on Chatwood and other takeaways from the game:
Chatty quiets Pirates
Pirates designated hitter Colin Moran fouled off a sinker, and then a changeup. He wasn’t going to go down easy.
But he would eventually go down. Chatwood threw another changeup, low and inside. This time Moran whiffed. It was Chatwood’s 11th strikeout of the night, tied for his career high.
Chatwood threw 6 2/3 shutout innings Saturday. He allowed just three hits and walked two.
After his first start of the season last week, Chatwood said he was the “best version” of himself. He continued that trend Saturday.
Sigh of relief
Cubs manager David Ross continues searching his bullpen for relievers he can count on in pressure situations. He’s found at least one, in Jeremy Jeffress.
After Chatwood’s pitch count climbed to 96, Jeffress replaced him on the mound with the bases loaded and two outs. He got Phillip Evans to ground out to third baseman David Bote, getting out of the inning without a runner scoring.
Jeffress was also the hero in Cincinnati earlier this week, when he took over for closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth on Monday with the bases loaded and one out. He got out of that unscathed as well.
The battle for the Cubs home run title this season took another turn in the third inning Saturday.
Ian Happ sent a high curve ball into the stands in left center field, for the Cubs’ first run of the night. It was his third homer of the season, pulling Happ into a tie for the lead with Anthony Rizzo.
Two batters later, Javier Báez got in on the fun. He hit the ball 448 feet to straightaway center field. It was the fifth-longest homer tracked by Statcast, which has been around since 2015.
Plus — you guessed it — it was his third homer of the year, creating a three-way tie.
Kris Bryant was scheduled to lead off for the Cubs. He even made the lineup introductions on the big screen. But just before the game, the Cubs announced that he was taken out of the lineup due to gastrointestinal issues.
Happ slid into the leadoff spot, and David Bote filled in at third base.
It was the second game Bryant has missed this season. He also sat out of Tuesday’s game at Cincinnati due to left elbow soreness.
Cubs pitcher José Quintana (left thumb) threw a 38-pitch bullpen session Saturday before the game, according to the team.
This is his first week of throwing all his pitches off a mound since undergoing surgery last month to repair a cut nerve in his left thumb. Between his bullpen session Wednesday and workout Saturday, he extended his pitch count by 10.
Quintana's next bullpen is scheduled for Monday.