Trevor Richards seemed like a bad matchup for the Cubs. The dreaded seeing a pitcher for the first time plus a good changeup for Richards and I thought the Cubs bats might struggle in South Florida. I was right from the end of the first inning until the early fifth inning. Richards retired eleven in a row. Sandwiched in between those 11 straight outs was five runs scored by the Cubs.
Yu Darvish didn't have an amazing start. His command was off at times, but his stuff looked the best of 2019 so far. Darvish started the game at about 95 and then managed to reach back for upper 90s to end his evening. More encouraging was Darvish worked out of a wobbly fifth inning on his own and was able to earn his first victory of the young campaign. The bullpen made it a stress free night as the Cubs inched closer to .500 again.
Trevor Richards ran into trouble early by plunking Kris Bryant with one out in the first inning. Javier Báez singled with two outs to keep the inning alive, and then Trevor Richards helped the Cubs out with a throwing error allowing the pair to advance into scoring position. He then walked Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras to force in the first run of the game. David Bote ripped a double into left to plate another pair of runs. Richards avoided further damage after intentionally walking Albert Almora Jr. and striking out his opposite to end the first down three.
Yu Darvish got some spectacular defense to start the game. Albert Almora Jr. made a diving catch to rob extra bases from Curtis Granderson. Brian Anderson struck out and it looked like Darvish might settle in for a nice stress free evening. Starlin Castro hit an infield single and Neil Walker hit a solid single to keep the inning alive. Darvish lost Miguel Rojas on a 3-2 pitch, but Austin Dean struck out swinging to preserve the Cubs three run lead.
Trevor Richards settled in to pitch a 1-2-3 in the second inning. Unfortunately Yu Darvish could not match his counterpart. Back to back walks against the Marlins order started the inning. Trevor Richards obliged Darvish with a tailor made double play ball, but Báez rushed a throw which turned two outs and no runs into a one out with a runner in scoring position and a run in. Granderson made an out he actually deserved but moved Richards to third. Brian Anderson grounded out to prevent a big inning from occurring, but the Marlins were now down 3-1.
Richard and Darvish retired everyone in a row until Chad Wallach unloaded a first pitch fastball with one out in the fourth inning. The Marlins couldn't get any closer before Darvish made it through four innings. Kris Bryant's one out double in the fifth was the first Cubs base runner since the first inning. Rizzo flew out for a second out, but the wheels fell off for Richards at this point. Báez hit a pop fly into shallow right field and Starlin Castro ranged deep into the outfield to make a play. The ball dropped just out of reach of Castro's glove and Bryant raced home for a run. The throw bounced away and Javy made a heads up base running play to reach third. Jason Heyward walked and Willson Contreras was hit by a pitch to load the bases. David Bote hit a slow roller to Miguel Rojas who casually flipped it to Castro. The call initially was safe but a review overturned it to give the Cubs their fifth run of the game and chase Richards from the game. Austin Brice managed to retire Almora to end the inning.
Darvish retired the first two batters of the bottom of the fifth inning and it seemed like the struggling righty might be cruising. Castro drew a walk and then Neil Walker bounced a single through the left side. A passed ball allowed the pair to advance into scoring position and trouble was looming when Miguel Rojas got two favorable ball counts to start the at bat. Darvish came back with a narrative busting strikeout to keep the score 5-2.
Brice worked around some trouble of his own creation but put a zero on the board in the sixth inning. Darvish was lighting up the gun at 99 several times including hitting Lewis Brinson with two outs. That ended Darvish's night. Kyle Ryan came on and struck out pinch hitter Rosell Herrera to end the inning.
Willson Contreras remained hot crushing a bomb to dead center in the seventh inning, but hard throwing Drew Steckenrider worked around the mistake to keep the Marlins in the game. Kyle Ryan got another out to start the eighth, but the fifth free pass issued by a Cubs hurler on the night was enough for Joe Maddon. Steve Cishek entered the game and did his thing facing Starlin Castro. The former Cub rolled over into an inning ending double play. Cishek would pitch a scoreless frame in the eighth inning as he remains dependable as ever.
The Cubs added a tack on run against Wei-Yin Chen in the ninth inning. Rizzo and Báez each made a nice base-running play after reaching base to start the inning. Contreras drove in Rizzo with a soft single to make it 7-2. Chen retired Bote and Almora to leave Báez stranded at third. Dwarven southpaw Tim Collins recorded his first big league strikeout of 2019 and kept the Marlins off the board to close out the game.
I'm firmly in the anti-retaliation camp. Throwing a hard object at speeds well over 90 mph at another human being is just a recipe for disaster, and I am glad that the Cubs are very unlikely to respond to the 69* hit by pitches they suffered tonight. Still can't deny that the second time Kris Bryant was hit part of me wanted to be a bad roach. Those feelings were affirmed when Darvish's 99 mph two seamer exacted a little karmic justice as no one was attempting to hit the other side tonight.
*Number may be slightly exaggerated.