Yu Darvish didn’t have the kind of overpowering performance the Cubs are used to seeing from him in a 6-5 win over Cleveland on Tuesday.
But Cameron Maybin saved the day with a game-winning hit by pitch.
With the game tied in the bottom of the ninth inning, Kris Bryant walked and Anthony Rizzo singled to put the winning run on third. Then, Willson Contreras was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Cameron Maybin stepped up to the plate, and was hit with the first pitch of the at-bat. It was the Cubs’ first walkoff hit by pitch since 2008.
The Cubs improved to 29-20, still atop the National League Central.
Here are other takeaways from the game:
Cy Young campaign showing cracks
In the month of August, Darvish never allowed more than one run in a start. In September, he’s already given up three runs in back-to-back starts.
He allowed nine hits on Tuesday, as many as Cubs starters gave up in the entire three-game series at Milwaukee this weekend.
Darvish cruised through the first five batters he faced. Then, Tyler Naquin stepped up to the plate. A 10-pitch at-bat ended in a line drive single to center field. Darvish got out of the inning, but the hits didn’t stop.
Josh Naylor led off the third inning — the Indians’ highest-scoring inning against Darvish — with a double. Then, Delino DeShields laid down a perfectly placed bunt for an RBI. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant fielded the ball barehanded but then threw wide of first base. DeShields advanced to third.
Then Francisco Lindor drove in DeShields with a double, and the Indians took a 2-1 lead.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that Naquin’s long at-bat in the second had paved the way for the rally. Naquin went 3-for-3 against Darvish on the night.
But Darvish still finished the night with a quality start, allowing three runs in seven innings.
Six-hole? No problem
Javier Báez dropped to sixth in the batting order for the first time this season, as Cubs manager David Ross reacted to Contreras’ success at the plate so far in September.
“It’s a really deep lineup when Javy Báez is hitting sixth, obviously,” Ross said. “He could very easily be back in the three- through four-hole at some point too.”
But after putting an emphasis on consistency while constructing the lineup for most of the season, Ross said he “may start moving things around a little more,” as the postseason approaches.
In his first at-bat in the six-hole, Báez launched a solo home run over the batter’s eye in center field, for the Cubs’ first hit of the game. The homer traveled 450 feet, according to Statcast.
Running in and out of trouble
Baserunning was shaping up to be an issue for the Cubs. In the fifth inning, Contreras tried to stretch out a single on a throw home and was thrown out at second. Then, in the seventh, Ian Happ was thrown out attempting to steal second after a leadoff single.
But in the eighth, Báez used his wheels to tack on an insurance run, reversing the earlier trend.
Báez was hit by a pitch to get on base. Then he stole second and popped right up after an errant throw by Cleveland catcher Sandy Leon. Báez ran all the way home. The Cubs took a 5-3 lead.
That run became even more important after Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor hit a two-run homer off Cubs reliever Jeremy Jeffress to tie the game at five runs apiece in the top of the ninth inning.
Left-hander Jon Lester is scheduled to take the mound for the Cubs, after throwing six shutout innings at Milwaukee Friday. In the second game of a two-game series with Cleveland, the Indians will give the ball to right-hander Aaron Civale.