While Nero Fiddled–Cubs 6 Pirates 1
today at 11:05 pm
So I messed up the social media posts tonight with where the game tonight was played, but I think the tag line I gave the series preview was apt. The Cubs won with what is clearly their formula to success in the 2020. Yu Darvish was dominant and the offense continued to roll. The Cubs are now 4-0 when their starters post a quality start and are 1-2 when they fail to do so.
However, as more and more games are cancelled with players testing positive for COVID-19. The hope that this good start isn’t wiped out by baseball having to shut down is a legitimate fear. That and the bullpen are the two things you are reasonably allowed to be worried about with this Cubs team right now. And the bullpen gave you more reason to be concerned and the pandemic is well a pandemic.
Yu Darvish and Trevor Williams traded zeroes in the first couple of innings. Darvish would pitch six shutout innings without allowing more than a single base runner in an inning. The Pirates only managed to put a runner in scoring position with two outs in the fifth inning against Darvish, but a groundout ended that threat.
Jason Heyward and Victor Caratini hit back to back singles with two outs in the second inning, but Jason Kipnis could not deliver the big hit. Williams started the third inning by punching out Ian Happ, but Kris Bryant drew a base on ball. Anthony Rizzo was plunked and an error by the Pirates pitcher on a Javier Báez bunt allowed everyone to advance two bases. Bryant scored on the play giving the Cubs another early lead. Williams recovered to strike out Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras to end the inning.
Jason Kipnis launched a two out homer to extend the Cubs lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning. Williams walked the first two batters in the fifth inning, but a back pick nabbed Anthony Rizzo for the first out at first base. Báez flew out but that was it for the Pirates starter. Nik Turley walked the first two batters he faced to load the bases. Jason Heyward pulled a single through the right side of the infield to double the Cubs lead 4-0.
The Pirates bullpen allowed the Cubs to threaten in the sixth and seventh but kept the game at a 4-0 score into the eighth. Kyle Ryan pitched a clean seventh, and was tasked with retiring the first batter of the eighth inning. Gregory Polanco hit the Pirates first extra base hit of the ninth with a solid double into the gap. Rowan Wick was summoned to put out the fire. He retired the first two batters, but Jarrod Dyson singled to put the Pirates on the board. A single by Adam Frazier brought the tying run to the on deck circle, but Wick wouldn’t allow Pittsburgh to creep any closer.
The Cubs bottom of the order did it once again in the bottom half of the eighth inning to take the pressure off the bullpen. A walk and three consecutive singles extended the Cubs lead to 6-1 without an out being recorded. That was useful because Craig Kimbrel gave up back to back jacks to start the ninth inning. Kimbrel retired the next three to preserve the win after raising everyone’s blood pressure.
Yu Darvish did not have a great start to his Cubs career, but he locked in down the stretch in 2019. He was the guy that could contend for a Cy Young award in those final 11 starts, and there was a lot of promise in 2020 that he could build upon that. Darvish has always had good stuff, but one of the things that makes him so unique is just the wide array of offerings that he has. And then there was talk of the Supreme.
Counting pitches is always something that is challenging. By some counts with the Supreme, Darvish has 11 pitches, but that always gets a bit tricky. Kyle Hendricks really throws two different types of changeups, for example, but that rarely gets counted as two different pitches. And then there is always the difference between a cutter and slider being more a matter of degrees. Either way, with the way Brewers attacked Darvish in the first start it felt a bit like this.
I am not sure I spotted any Supremes tonight, but it didn’t matter with a dominant 6 innings out of Darvish tonight.