MIAMI – When he walked off the mound last May 20th at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, there was hope that this effort might be the turnaround.
Yu Darvish overcame a rough first inning, allowed just two hits, one run, and struck out seven against the Reds in picking up his first Cubs’ victory. That came after seven mostly forgettable starts for the pitcher who was given a $126 million dollar deal earlier that winter.
But waiting for his next win would take some patience. In fact, it would take a lot for both Darvish and fans.
Injuries would keep the starter off the mound the rest of the 2018 season, and his first three starts of 2019 had yet to produce a victory. But finally, the wait came to an end on Monday night.
He wasn’t dominant but managed to work his way through a few difficult situations to go a season-high 5 2/3 innings against the Marlins in Miami. His effort along with a strong Cubs’ offensive outing was enough to give Darvish his first win of the season in a 7-2 triumph at Marlins Park.
Darvish struck out a season-high eight strikeouts and allowed two runs during his time on the mound. The four walks he allowed got him into trouble in a few innings, but he had enough to keep the game under control to get a victory, as he goes to 1-2 on the season with an ERA of 6.11.
Celebrating such an accomplishment would have seemed unlikely when the Cubs chose Darvish over Jake Arrieta in the offseason of 2017, when hopes were that the pitcher would become one of the elite starters in the National League. It didn’t happen in his first month-and-a-half with the team, as Darvish struggled with control and consistency, with his best game finally coming nearly two months into the season in Cincinnati.
He wouldn’t pitch again, as elbow trouble derailed two rehab stints over the next four months, eventually leading to elbow surgery in September. Darvish returned this spring with renewed enthusiasm, telling reporters that he’d never felt better at any point in his career.
Like 2018, however, the pitcher’s start to the season has been a slow progression rather than a quick rise. Darvish lasted just 2 2/3 innings in his first game against Texas with seven walks and three earned runs, then allowed the same amount to the Braves in four innings of work along with four walks. He would correct the walk issue against the Pirates last Wednesday, not allowing one for the first time in his Cubs career, but a pair of Pittsburgh homers sent him to another loss.
Monday was his best outing so far, as he used his strikeout prowess to overcome a few more walks to get a victory that was nearly a year in the making.