Darvish dominates, then tempers flare in Cubs' split with Reds
The story of the day for the Cubs was Yu Darvish winning one of the year's best pitching matchups in Game 1 against Cincinnati's Trevor Bauer.
But a flurry of ejections after two overhead pitches made Game 2 eventful as well. The Cubs were closing in on a doubleheader sweep against the Reds, but settled for a split after a blown save by Craig Kimbrel in the nightcap let Cincinnati escape with a 6-5 win.
The trouble in Game 2 began in the fourth inning. After Anthony Rizzo homered twice in Game 1 and doubled in the first inning of Game 2, he watched a pitch from Reds starter Teejay Antone sail over his head.
"Just a scary situation," Rizzo said. "We've played against the Reds a long time. They do like to move my feet. I don't think any pitcher would purposely throw at someone's head. It probably did get away a little bit.
"The intent to go inside I definitely think was there. It can't be at the head. The direct pull shot at the head is just life kind of flashing before your eyes there for a second."
The Cubs took exception, associate coach Mike Borzello was tossed. Cubs manager David Ross came out to ask why and was also ejected by plate umpire Nic Lentz.
"It's such a unique environment we're in where you can hear everything," Ross said. "I felt like he (Lentz) was looking for a problem in our dugout. We're not happy when somebody throws 97 behind Riz, behind any of our players for that matter. That's not a miss, that's not a grab-some-resin slip. That was intentional, there's no doubt in my mind about that."
In the bottom of the inning, Adbert Alzolay returned the favor, buzzing Shogo Akiyama. This time the Reds were unhappy and there was some jawing between the teams. When some of the Reds left the dugout and started walking toward the field, Joey Votto, Jesse Winker and manager David Bell were ejected in rapid fashion by first-base umpire Dan Bellino.
The Cubs rallied from a 4-1 deficit and went into the bottom of the seventh with a 5-4 lead. But Kimbrel had a rough finish, giving up 2 runs on 3 walks, 1 hit and 3 wild pitches.
"Craig's been trending in the right direction," Ross said. "Nothing's changed. We need Craig to be good. He's not quite where he wants to be yet, that's obvious. Tonight just wasn't his night."
Darvish scattered 7 hits over 6 innings and added 8 strikeouts in the Cubs' 3-0 victory in the opener. Jeremy Jeffress pitched the seventh to earn his fourth save.
At the start of the day, Darvish and Bauer had two of the three lowest ERAs in the National League, behind Atlanta's Max Fried.
By the end of Game 1, Darvish had improved to 6-1 on the season with a 1.47 ERA. Fried is 5-0 with a 1.35 ERA. As he's done in the past, Darvish refused to acknowledge himself as a Cy Young candidate.
"I'm focusing on next pitch," Darvish said after the game. "So next pitch is first pitch in the next game. I'm just focusing on that. I don't care about my numbers or that kind of stuff."
What's interesting is Darvish said he leaned on Bauer for advice last year when he was struggling with control.
"I text him a lot and he gave me a lot of advice and I tried a lot of things," Darvish said. "I'm still doing his stuff, shoulder stuff right before I pitch, heavy-ball stuff. He gave me a lot of advice.
"It was big, for sure. He's been amazing this year. So I was thinking before the game I can't give them more than 2 runs."
Darvish might throw the widest variety of pitches in the majors. When he slowed down his pace last season and started focusing more on each pitch, Darvish has been rolling. Ross tried to illustrate the challenge of facing Darvish.
"The mixture of the breaking balls, there's just such variance in the speeds and the action in basically all 3 -- the curveball, slider and cutter," Ross said. "And he can throw them to both sides of the plate with different speeds. So it's just really tough to size up and you always have to respect the 97 (fastball) in his back pocket.
"And oh yeah, he's got a really good split-finger. It's tough to game plan for when you're in the box. You never know what he's going to throw."
On one pitch, Darvish actually dropped his glove during his delivery, a pitch Freddy Galvis fouled off.
"That was the best splitter in this game," Darvish said. "I hope I can throw that pitch next game too."
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