There were some added stakes to Saturday night’s Cubs-Dodgers matchup. Darvish made his first start at Dodger Stadium since his infamous Game 7 loss in the 2017 World Series, looking for a great effort in front of a fan base that had their up-and-downs in terms of their relationship with him. He (maybe) took a small jab at the Dodgers before the game had even started, telling the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't worried about being booed because “the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side.”
Yu Darvish told @dylanohernandez that "the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side." It was not. The #Cubs RHP heard resounding boos when he was introduced before game.— Mike DiGiovanna (@MikeDiGiovanna) June 16, 2019
Well Dodgers faithful certainly got the message and made sure to let Darvish hear it.
Yu Darvish with a warm welcome in his return to Dodger Stadium.— Blake Harris (@BlakeHarrisTBLA) June 16, 2019
A loud collective “Yuuu” or boos? You be the judge...
Yes I know the correct answer. pic.twitter.com/waxvIQA4J0
However, Darvish got the last laugh on Saturday night. He pitched a stellar seven innings. Over those seven innings, Darvish gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and also notched 10 strikeouts.
10+ K starts by #Cubs pitchers this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 16, 2019
In 2018, they only had one (Quintana)
Darvish has been hitting his stride as of late, maintaining a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts.
Joe Maddon on Yu Darvish: “When he really believes in himself and he has confidence in himself – he is one of the best pitchers in baseball.”— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) June 16, 2019
"This was really important in my life. I think now I can move forward. I pitched good here." -- Yu Darvish, on pitching a gem in Dodger Stadium, where he lost Game 7 of the 2017 World Series— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 16, 2019
All of that being said, it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of Darvish’s teammates. His great outing helped keep the Cubs in the game, but the gutsy performances of Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Strop are what won the contest.
Dodgers All-Star relief pitcher Kenley Jansen had a 10-game scoreless streak coming into Saturday night, but one swing of Rizzo’s bat was all that was needed to restore balance to the everlasting battle of pitcher versus hitter. After Jansen hit Kris Bryant with a pitch to put him on base, Rizzo activated “clutch mode”, mashing a 400-foot bomb out to right field.
Though small, Saturday night’s homer gives Rizzo a three-game hitting streak, perhaps forecasting that things are trending upwards for the first baseman as the Cubs look to close out the series against the Dodgers with a win on Sunday night. And not to be left out of the fun, Pedro Strop came in to face the Justin Turner, MVP hopeful Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Matt Beaty to nail down the save.
Never afraid of high-pressure moments, Stop came through big time.
Strop got a ground out from Turner, struck out Bellinger and Beaty in his 15-pitch save effort. This was a much-needed win for the Cubs, who have well-documented struggles on the road. As they look to split the four-game set with the Dodgers on Sunday night, the Cubs can be pleased with their fight this week.
HUGE comeback win for the #Cubs as they notch their first victory after trailing through 6 innings on the season!— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) June 16, 2019
Darvish was great and Rizzo's 2-run shot in the 9th put the Cubs ahead for good pic.twitter.com/4rxOppQPLS
Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Cubs first win of the season after trailing through six innings, as they were 0-23 in such situations prior to the victory. Amid a season that has been fraught with injury and general roster construction concerns, it was wonderful to see the Cubs pull out a tough win lead by the much-maligned Darvish and the never-quit attitude of his teammates.