Cincinnati Reds

Yu Darvish makes history, but Cubs lose crucial game

Yu Darvish makes history, but Cubs lose crucial game

Things didn't get off to a great start for Yu Darvish Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, but he managed to right the ship quickly.

After allowing three of the first four batters of the game to score, Darvish struck out 10 of the next 12 Reds that strolled to the plate.

That included a stretch of eight Reds in a row, which set a new Cubs franchise record:

Darvish and Kyle Schwarber (3 hits, 2 RBI) were the only bright spots on the night for the Cubs as they dropped a crucial game 4-2.

The Cardinals also lost, so the Cubs didn't lose any ground in the division, but they did fall to 1.5 games behind the Nationals in the Wild-Card race. Milwaukee won, meaning the Brewers are now tied with the Cubs for the final playoff spot in the National League.

Darvish finished with 13 strikeouts in 7 innings Tuesday night, but gave up all 4 Reds runs.

It makes back-to-back incredible performances from the veteran in the whiff department, as he has 27 strikeouts over his last two starts — second-best in Cubs history:

"I'm in a pretty good place [right now], but still, we lost," he said. "We need wins at this point, so I'm still frustrated."

As the Cubs make their push toward October, Darvish has been right up there with Kyle Hendricks as the most reliable members of the rotation. 

Given the way last year went and his slow start to 2019, the Cubs could not have asked for more from Darvish in the second half of the season while also pitching through some forearm tightness. Since the All-Star Break, the 33-year-old right-hander has a 2.70 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 106 strikeouts against only 7 walks in 73.1 innings.

His performance has been especially huge since veterans Cole Hamels and Jon Lester have struggled to find consistency over the last couple months.

"We're seeing the real version of [Darvish] as a person, not just as a baseball player," Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said before Tuesday's game. "I think the comfortability level of him with everybody — the media, the coaching staff, the city, every aspect of it has played into it. 

"When he's in a good place and he's mentally feeling good and physically feeling good and he's comfortable, the sky's the limit with him and what he can do. He's got the freedom here to be more of himself in that we don't put a lot of restrictions on him and what he wants to do. As long as we kinda have the same focus and same goals, we're all on the same team. 

"I feel like he's getting to the point now where he's himself. You see that every time out. He's an ultra competitor; he's an uber planner. His routines are outstanding. He's just ready to go out there and dominate every time he gets the ball."

Add Aristides Aquino to the team of modern-day Cub killers

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USA TODAY

Add Aristides Aquino to the team of modern-day Cub killers

Saturday is just the 10th game of Aristides Aquino’s MLB career, but it might be time to add him to one prestigious group: the team of modern-day Cub killers.

Aquino, whom the Reds called up from Triple-A on Aug. 1, has absolutely mashed Cubs pitching this weekend. The 25-year-old is 6-for-11 against the Cubs since Thursday, with five of those hits going for home runs.

It’s not just that Aquino is teeing off on Cubs pitchers this weekend, however. With his three home runs on Saturday, Aquino has hit seven in his first 10 career MLB games, etching his name into the record books in the process.

So, yeah, Aquino is on quite a run right now. The most intense part of his story is that he’s been in the Reds farm system since 2011, briefly becoming a free agent last offseason before the Reds re-signed him to a minor league deal. Furthermore, his MLB promotion only came after the Reds traded Yasiel Puig to the Indians at the trade deadline.

At this point, the Cubs must be having nightmares knowing they almost avoided seeing him this weekend. Nonetheless, Aquino has officially earned his place on the team of Cub killers, regardless of the fact that he’s played just three games against them.

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The Reds are shaking up the MLB Trade Deadline and the NL Central

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USA TODAY

The Reds are shaking up the MLB Trade Deadline and the NL Central

You know it's a wild night for a ballclub when one of your pitchers taking on an entire team in a brawl is the second-most interesting headline.

Shortly before Amir Garrett tried to fight the entire Pittsburgh Pirates roster in a moment that will live on in baseball infamy, the Reds actually put the NL Central on notice with a different move, acquiring Trevor Bauer from the Indians and trading away Yasiel Puig in a three-team deal.

The move is undoubtedly the most high-profile of the 2019 MLB Trade Deadline to date, as both Bauer and Puig are big names and talented players switching clubs. The San Diego Padres also got into the mix, dealing outfielder Franmil Reyes and left-handed pitcher Logan Allen to the Indians and acquiring Reds top prospect Taylor Trammell in return.

Bauer, 28, joins a much-improved Reds pitching staff after making his own headlines this week by chucking a ball over the centerfield fence when he was being taken out of a game in his final outing in Cleveland. The right-hander was in the running for the AL Cy Young last year before an injury and at the time of the trade this season, led the league in innings pitched (156.2) while boasting a 9-8 record, 3.79 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. 

He is under team control through the 2020 season, so it gives the Reds plenty of options. They can try to make a run for a playoff spot this year, but they currently sit 7.5 games out of first place in the NL Central and 6.5 out of the wild-card race with a 49-56 record. So they're most likely retooling for next season, though they could flip the MLB Trade Deadline on its head and turn around and deal Bauer to another club before 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Puig is a free agent after this season and has disappointed in his first year with the Reds. The 28-year-old enigmatic outfielder was hitting .255 with a .785 OPS and 22 homers at the time of the trade and shortly after the move was reported, he was out right out there alongside Garrett trying to fight the Pirates.

It's a savvy move by the Reds, trading away a short-term asset for a longer-term guy. But it had to be tough to part with Trammell, who ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the game by Baseball Prospectus coming into the season.

Even if they don't make a push for the postseason this year, the Reds could still be a formidable spoiler down the stretch, with a rotation pairing Bauer alongside Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray and an offense that still features Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett. 

That's bad news for the Cubs, who are already only 5-7 against the Reds this year and have to play them seven more times, including a trip to Cincinnati next weekend.