With how Yu Darvish is pitching, it’s getting hard to come up with new ways to describe his brilliance.
"It's funny, that popped in my head after he came out," Cubs manager David Ross said postgame. "I was just like, 'I don't know what else to say about this guy.'"
Darvish flirted with a perfect game on Friday, leading the Cubs to a 4-1 win over the Cardinals to kick off a big five-game series at Wrigley Field. The Cubs ace stymied St. Louis throughout the night, striking out half the batters he faced.
Some quick takes from the win.
Cy Yu makes another case
Darvish keeps finding ways to out-pitch himself, delivering his best start of the season on Friday,
Darvish took a perfect game into the sixth inning before the Cardinals earned their first baserunner, not to mention hit and run. Matt Carpenter worked a nine-pitch at-bat to start the sixth, the final pitch landing in the right-center basket for a home run.
That was the extent of the damage off Darvish, who pitched seven innings of one-hit ball, walking none and striking out 11 — tied for a season-high. He set a season-best by allowing just one baserunner, his previous being three on July 31 vs. Pittsburgh.
"The way he commands the strike zone with his secondary pitches is some of the best I've ever seen," Ross said. "He can really do it, and you've got to respect the 95-97 [mph] he's got in his back pocket.
"That was really fun to watch."
Friday was Darvish’s seventh straight quality start. He now holds a 1.44 ERA, still No. 1 in the National League. He and Braves starter Max Fried have both allowed eight earned runs this season — Darvish in 49 innings compared to Fried’s 45.
Cool, Calm, Contreras
The Cubs wasted no time cashing in on a great opportunity Friday after going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position Thursday, thanks to Willson Contreras.
The Cubs, who have struggled with the bases loaded this season (.186/.220/.256 entering Friday) loaded them in the first on two walks and a double. With two outs, Contreras put together one of his best at-bats of the season, laying off sliders down and away and fouling off three 3-2 pitches.
On the ninth pitch of the AB, Contreras shot a single into center field, bringing two runners home to give the Cubs an early lead.
"My mindset was just keep it simple," Contreras said. "Don't try to do too much; just try to hit a line drive to center field."
That first inning was key for the Cubs, as Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty threw 43 pitches. He pitched just 2 2/3 innings, throwing 69 pitches before exiting.
Contreras came up big all night, pacing the Cubs offense. In the third, he knocked in Jason Heyward on a groundball single to right field. In the sixth, he launched a no-doubt, 412-foot homer into left for his fourth RBI.
“It’s a really cool trophy and represents so much.” –David Ross on the Roberto Clemente Award, which Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward is nominated for.
The Cubs and Cardinals have a doubleheader scheduled Saturday at Wrigley Field, starting at 4:15 p.m. Adbert Alzolay (0-0, 0.00 ERA) and Adam Wainwright (3-0, 2.65 ERA) are the probable starters for Game 1.
The Cubs will have a ‘bullpen game’ in Game 2, while Dakota Hudson (1-2, 2.77 ERA) starts for St. Louis.