Yu Darvish impresses his manager as he continues to find rhythm in 2019 with Cubs

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MAY 20: Yu Darvish #11 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field on May 20, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – It isn’t quite known as “The Decision,” but it certainly is one of the biggest the Cubs have made during this recent era of success.

In the offseason of 2018, the Cubs chose to give the major money to starting pitcher Yu Darvish instead of Jake Arrieta, letting him go in free agency where he eventually landed with the Phillies. The $126 million given by the Cubs to the replacement for Arrieta would become a hot topic of debate ever since for fans of the franchise.

That’s because the first season for Darvish was lost to injuries that not only limited games but also effectiveness, bringing up the question of whether the Cubs made the right decision to allow Arrieta to walk in free agency. Once again, that choice became the focus on Monday, when the pitchers faced off against each other for the first time since they put on their current jerseys.

As Arrieta got a warm welcome from the Cubs fans, Darvish continued to follow his narrative of the 2019 season. The pitcher continues to find his rhythm with the team as he works back from offseason elbow surgery, showing electric pitches here and there, with Monday night being another example of this despite a slip-up late in the performance.

But his manager Joe Maddon saw past that final inning when accessing the entire performance.

“Really good, he was outstanding, actually,” said Maddon of Darvish. “He pitched really well.”

Up until the fifth inning, it was perhaps his best outing at Wrigley Field in his tenure with the club. During that time, he didn’t allow a run struck out seven batters while walking just one as the Cubs held on to a 1-0 lead. That control would escape him in the sixth as he walked two batters, yet got two outs to attempt to get out of the struggles. Then a single up the middle, then a bloop hit down the right field line plated three runs for the Phillies, spoiling the end of the effort for Darvish.

Yet that didn’t deter the praise from Maddon when it came to his starting pitcher.

“Two-strike ground ball up the middle and then a fly ball down the right field line; he had really good stuff,” said Maddon of Darvish. “He had command of his stuff, he had command of himself. I thought he was outstanding. Even better than he looked in Cincinnati. I thought it was his best game for us to date.”

That game against the Reds was last Tuesday, and it was certainly the most encouraging game of his still short Cubs’ tenure which includes 18 starts. Darvish struck out 11 batters without yielding a walk over five innings but took a no decision in a 6-5 Cubs’ defeat. That was preceded by a game which Darvish walked six and struck out seven, allowing just one run but going just four innings in a start against the Marlins on May 9th.

Five days earlier, he allowed five earned runs in the same amount of time on the mound against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

All in all, there are moments for Darvish so far this season, but the wait continues for the pitcher to find the consistency the team hoped for when they chose him over Arrieta. Perhaps as he gets more into a rhythm after a lost 2018 season, the good performances will be more fluid, and the sometimes electric stuff that he’s shown at times with pitches will be more prevalent.

Maddon believes that will arrive sooner than later.

“He’ll walk away from today feeling pretty good about himself. He knows what he can do here now,” said Maddon of Darvish. “He’s had a wonderful career to this point, but, now, doing it here is really important to him. Like I said, he could not have pitched better than he did today.”

Maybe he’ll get to say that more often than he has so far in Darvish’s short tenure in Chicago.

 

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