The Cubs looked to start the year 2-0 against the Texas Rangers in Arlington Saturday night. While things looked promising out of the gate, an inability to throw strikes would come back to haunt Chicago late.
The Cubs jumped all over starter Edinson Volquez in the top of the 1st inning. Kris Bryant doubled down the left-field line with one out. After an Anthony Rizzo walk, Javy Baez ripped an RBI single to left-center to make it 1-0. An infield hit from Willson Contreras and a laser single from Kyle Schwarber made it 3-0. Jason Heyward hit into a double play to end the big inning.
Yu Darvish made his first start of the season and it was laborious to say the least. He struck out the first two men he faced, then he walked the bases loaded before punching out Asdrubal Cabrera to end it. The inning took over 30 pitches and was a sign of the slog to come for the entire pitching staff.
Three more Darvish walks in the 2nd led to an RBI single from Rougned Odor to cut the lead to 3-1. A caught stealing of Ronald Guzman at third base limited the damage in the frame. In the top of the 3rd, a Baez single was followed by a Contreras double to push the lead back up to three.
Another free pass led to trouble in the bottom of the inning as Cabrera smoked a long two-run homer to right against Yu. Joe Maddon was forced to pull his starter after 75 pitches and 7 walks. Steve Cishek finished the inning and Jose Quintana took over in the 4th.
Schwarber greeted new reliever Jeanmar Gomez with a long solo-shot to center field. Willson Contreras laced his second double to right and scored on a Heyward sacrifice fly and lead was 6-3 Cubs. Quintana pitched around three walks of his own to keep Texas off the board.
Q ran into trouble in the 7th inning, Cabrera hit a dribbler to third base that David Bote fielded. He got the ball cleanly, but the throw was in the dirt. While it looked like an error, the official scorer ruled hit. Guzman followed with a double to left to put runners on second and third with none out. Two looking strike outs followed, before Shin-Soo Choo singled to cut the lead to 6-5.
The seemingly inevitable happened in the bottom of the 8th inning. Carl Edwards Jr. took over and allowed a base hit up the middle to Elvis Andrus. Then Nomar Mazara drew walk number 12 for the Rangers. Joey Gallo, he of the tremendous power, stepped up and plastered a three-run go-ahead bomb to center field.
Schwarber got a bunt single off of closer Jose Leclerc in the 9th. That was all the road team would get and the Cubs fell 8-6.
Yu Can’t Win ‘Em All
Darvish seemed to have good stuff, but his fastball command wasn’t sharp. A tight strike zone didn’t help matters either. The pitch count prevented him from going deeper into the game to work it out. After not pitching in over 300 days I’m willing to give the big righty a break.
Good Plate Approach
The Cubs had a good offensive approach for a second game in a row, with 7 walks of their own. Scoring six runs usually earns a lot of victories. Almost every hitter has had quality at bats the first two contests. It’s a promising trend to hopefully see going forward.
The Cubs need Carl Edwards to be a shutdown reliever. With Brandon Morrow out at least a month a set-up man is key. So it was troubling to see bad Carl in his first appearance. He can be great and his end of the season numbers reflect that. The blowups are very memorable and can’t help but give people pause. It isn’t fair, alas, thus is the life of a high-leverage reliever.
With all the walks tonight, Gallo’s homer got this reaction from me.