Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks matter-of-factly ran through the play-by-play of Miami's game-winning home run off him in Game 1.
“No panic,” he said after the game. “We’ve got the guy we want on the mound tomorrow for us, for sure.”
That guy is Yu Darvish.
Now that Major League Baseball has postponed Game 2 of the Cubs and Marlins’ Wild Card Series, due to Thursday’s weather forecast, Darvish won’t take the mound until Friday.
Win or go home. Well, manager David Ross refers to Darvish’s starts as “win day.”
Hendricks, who threw six shutout innings on Wednesday before giving up a three-run homer to Corey Dickerson in the seventh, said it was a “huge honor” to start Game 1.
“But at the end of the day, we all know what Yu’s done this year," Hendricks said. "He's our ace. He's the guy who's been dominant all year long. So really, if this was a one-game playoff kind of thing, he would be the guy, obviously.”
Hendricks is right, and he's been no slouch this season either. He amassed a 1.45 ERA in September, leading up to the playoffs. But Darvish is the one in the Cy Young race.
More importantly, he could save the Cubs’ postseason.
Asked what the feeling around the team was with Darvish on the mound for Game 2, Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward said, “The feeling is, we want to do our part on the offensive side. You understand, at times we face good pitching. It is what it is, you tip your cap. But again, the fact is, obviously we have to score to win. We’d like to go out and give him more than one run to work with and give ourselves a chance.”
The Marlins had rookie Sixto Sánchez lined up to start Game 2. The good news for the Cubs, who scored just one run against another hard-throwing right-hander Wednesday, is they might not need much more than that with Darvish on the bump.
Darvish allowed no more than one run in a game for seven straight starts, from late July through early September.
“He almost creates a painting every time he pitches,” veteran southpaw Jon Lester said Thursday. “Like, ‘My slider’s not working today, so we’re going to go with my nasty split or this pitch that I invented two weeks ago that we don’t have a name for and he makes people look stupid on.’”
Lester was not exaggerating.
By Darvish’s estimate, he has 11 pitches in his arsenal. He’s meticulous in weighing which pitches will be most effective against which hitters. In his bullpen sessions in between starts, according to Ross, Darvish will plan his attack against the lineup he’s scheduled to face next.
“I don’t know how he does it,” Lester said, “because it’s hard enough for me to game-plan with just the few pitches I have.”
Lester, with more playoff experience than any other member of the Cubs rotation, is scheduled to start Game 3 if necessary. Who better to take the mound Friday, as the Cubs fight to get to that third game, than the team’s resident artist?
Said Heyward: "We need a chance to keep playing."