A Yu Darvish/Zack Greinke matchup is what would happen if the kids from Stranger Things grew up to throw 90 MPH. It’s a duel between two of the most entertaining socially awkward misfits in baseball. And you get the sense that both pitchers would be just as happy if MLB decided to call off the game in favor of deciding the result by a round of Magic: The Gathering.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, today’s game was what would happen if Greinke played Death’s Shadow and Darvish countered with Gumdrop Mountain.
The most exciting play of the day for the Cubs might have been the very first one. Jarrod Dyson led off by slapping an outside pitch just over third base and into left field foul territory for a single. But as one of the fastest runners in baseball, Dyson wasn’t content with just one base and decided to challenge the arm of Kyle Schwarber and try to stretch it into a double.
I don’t know how much of a reader Dyson is. Perhaps he’s a fan of Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Zora Neale Hurston, or other classics of western literature. But one thing I know for sure that he hasn’t read is any scouting report since 2017.
Dyson was out from the moment Schwarber picked up the ball. And everyone in Wrigley Field could see it coming as it unfolded in real time. It was as thrilling a way to start the game as anyone could conceive.
Unfortunately, the very next batter was the supremely underrated Eduardo Escobar, who annihilated a 2-0 fastball from Darvish halfway up the bleachers in right. And even more unfortunately, the following batter was the even more underrated David Peralta. Darvish got ahead of him with two quick sliders. But after pondering his famously deep pitch repertoire, Yu decided that this was the moment to go with the hanging slider. And Peralta laser beamed it out to right for back-to-back homers and a quick 2-0 lead.
As Len Kasper noted, it was the first time the Cubs had trailed in a baseball game in a week. So of course, the fans immediately began booing. Which came off as more than a tad harsh. If unquenchable white-hot rage was the default response anytime the Cubs started losing a game, the Andy MacPhail era would have sounded like a decade-long GWAR concert.
Yu Darvish’s outing was very...Yu Darvish. The first couple innings were a hard watch. He began the second inning walking Nick Ahmed and John Ryan Murphy, neither of whom are going to be confused with Joey Votto anytime soon. When previously asked about the reason behind his occasional lapses in control, Darvish famously answered “I’m Yu Darvish.” Sadly, Tommy Hottovy did not think to immediately respond, “Well, could you just once please try being Greg Maddux?”
Ahmed would later come around to score the third run on a Dyson sac fly to shallow right that made you wish Joe Maddon could stop time and switch Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward’s positions just before the catch was made. It was 3-0 in the second inning and Darvish looked completely uncomfortable. His command was scattershot and he stepped off so many times trying to get a sign that if he were wearing a Fitbit, it would have switched over to the blue screen of death after 20 pitches.
But then once the third inning rolled around, Darvish found it. Other than a single and walk, Yu was in total control and missing bats, striking out four of the last seven batters he faced. He also threw four or five pitches that treated the laws of physics like they were Lewis Brinson’s testicles.
I’m not going to say it was a good outing. 5IP 5H 3ER 3BB 7K by definition is not good. But there was just enough good in there to make it tantalizingly frustrating. Which, I guess, is what Darvish has been all about during his time with the Cubs.
Meanwhile, Zack Greinke was very impressive. He lived on both corners all day long and stubbornly stuck to his game plan, refusing to give in to just about anyone. The Cubs made very little hard contact all day and could only mount three hits against the former Cy Young winner, who apparently recently walked into a barbershop and ordered the “If Joe Dirt joined Cobra Kai.”
The Cubs only mounted one real threat all day when Kris Bryant led off the fourth inning by skying a fly ball to deep center. Thanks to a combination of the wind and sun, Arizona outfielders have been approaching all of KB’s pop-ups as if they just looked directly into his eyes and are swooning around lost in an endless Peter Gabriel soundtrack loop. For the second day in a row, Bryant’s catchable fly ball fell in five feet away from any D-Backs outfielder for a double and the Cubs looked to climb back in the game.
After two outs, Willson Contreras worked an excellent at bat for a walk on a 3-2 pitch just off the inside corner. Jason Heyward followed with another lesson in stellar plate approach and also worked it to 3-2, fouling off pitch after pitch in the process. Despite his best efforts, though, Greinke eventually located a fastball on the low outside corner for strike three and that was about it from the bats for the day.
Even though Darvish had thrown only 88 pitches through five, Maddon pulled him for a pinch hitters so that Mark Zagunis could strike out with the bases empty and two outs. At this point, Maddon is somehow handling Darvish like he’s even more fragile than circa-2015 Kyle Hendricks or Jason Hammel. And it didn’t pay off at all today as Allen Webster was called on just in time to give up a three spot in the sixth, putting the game well out of reach.
Thus endeth the streak of three consecutive games where Cubs starting pitchers gave up zero earned runs over seven innings pitched. It wasn’t a total nightmare outing but it also could have been a lot better. Perhaps they can start a new streak tomorrow when they give the ball to...
If Chatwood somehow throws seven shutout innings, that will officially be the greatest miracle that ever happened on Easter Sunday.
Noteworthy Moment from the Broadcast: After a decidedly borderline check swing call by third base umpire Dan Iassogna, Jim Deshaies repeated his request for umpires to introduce “the shrug” as a third option besides swing or no swing.
In actuality, it turns out that umpires already have “the shrug.” It’s called “CB Bucknor’s strike zone.”
Random Reference: That was a bit of a downer after a four game winning streak, wasn’t it? Since we need some cheering up (and because I made a passing Cobra Kai reference earlier), let’s listen to Gary Gulman’s sublime Karate Kid bit...