After a rainout Thursday in Cincinnati, the Cubs returned to Wrigley Field to battle the Pittsburgh Pirates Friday. Yu Darvish resumed his late 2019 form and the offense produced enough runs to survive another bullpen hiccup in a victory.
The scoring started in the 3rd, when Kris Bryant walked and Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch to put two men on for Javy Báez. Javy bunted for a hit and an error on the throw to first by starter Trevor Williams allowed Bryant to score. Jason Kipnis doubled that 1-0 lead with a solo homer in the 4th inning.
Darvish was really on his game Friday, keeping the Pirates off the board through six strong innings. After getting squeezed early, he dialed in the command and was even painting the corners at 98 mph.
The Cubs loaded the bases against Williams and reliever Nik Turley in the 5th and Jason Heyward hung in against the tough lefty to punch a two-run single to right. They needed those runs because the Pirates rallied in the 8th against Kyle Ryan and Rowan Wick. A double and two singles cut the lead to 4-1, but Wick escaped the jam with a fly out.
Rizzo then singled with the sacks packed in the bottom of the frame to increase the lead to 6-1. That hit proved very valuable when Craig Kimbrel had more issues in the 9th. Josh Bell and Colin Moran hit back-to-back homers against him to open the inning, but three more hard-hit balls found gloves and the Cubs survived with a 6-3 win. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
Darvish was excellent and the Cubs came through with two big bases-loaded hits to provide the winning margin.
Heyward’s 5th inning hit came with two outs on an 0-2 pitch and doubled the Cubs lead. A 2-0 margin would have been awfully shaky with the current relief issues.
Stats That Matter
- Darvish’s numbers were very impressive Friday: 6 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 7 K, and 1 BB. All his pitches looked sharp from the jump.
- Bryant got on base three times, twice via walk.
- Rizzo got hit by a pitch for the sixth time in the young season. He is currently tied with the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo for the most active HBP at 151.
Gotta like what you’ve seen from the Cubs offense and starting staff so far in 2020. That said, Kimbrel’s struggles have to be a big red flag for an already weak bullpen. They’ll need the formerly dominant closer to find some of his old form and soon.