Cubs, winless Darvish face Reds

The Sports Xchange

May 19, 2018 at 8:32 pm.

The Chicago Cubs certainly aren’t paying right-handed starter Yu Darvish $126 million for this.

Almost two months — and seven starts — into his Cubs career, Darvish still hasn’t won. He’s still not giving them a lot of innings, and he’s certainly not pitching like a top-of-the-rotation starter should, especially given the amount of money he’s making.

Still, when Darvish (0-3) starts Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, in his second start since the flu sent him to the disabled list, manager Joe Maddon will accept a performance much like his first start.

The Reds will send out right-hander Tyler Mahle (3-5) as they try to gain a split in the four-game series.

The Cubs won 8-1 Friday night, then dropped the first game of a day-night doubleheader Saturday 5-4 in 11 innings. They came back to romp 10-0 in the nightcap as Jose Quintana (5-3) permitted only one hit in seven shutout innings.

Now, right when it seems the Cubs are getting their bats going, they’d like to get Darvish out of his slump.

Darvish struck out five and walked two while giving up one run against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday before leaving with cramping in his right leg after lasting four innings and 61 pitches. The Cubs went on to lose 3-2.

“He came up and talked to me and wanted to go back in, but I said, ‘No, I don’t think that’s wise,'” Maddon said. “I anticipated him going back out but the guy, having been ill recently … He did a great job, and that’s why I did what I did.”

Darvish wanted to go back out, he said through an interpreter, because, “This year, especially, the fifth inning has been the most challenging thing, so I think it’s really important to go out there and throw through the fifth inning.”

Darvish hasn’t pitched longer than six innings while going 0-3 with a 5.56 ERA, throwing only 34 innings in seven starts. In the last two seasons with the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Cubs, Darvish is only 10-15.

“Darvish has had a very typical first month for a free agent,” Cubs president Theo Epstein told WSCR-AM radio in Chicago. “Some guys hit the ground running … but that’s pretty rare. Look no farther than Jon Lester’s first month in a Cubs uniform. It was kind of eerily similar.”

Mahle is also coming off a short start, lasting only 3 1/3 innings of a 5-3 loss on Tuesday to the San Francisco Giants in which he gave up four earned runs and seven hits while laboring through 86 pitches.

One issue with Mahle is that he’s giving up a lot of home runs, 10 in 47 2/3 innings.

“The Giants were making him throw a lot of pitches,” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “He was getting 2-2, 3-2 counts, foul ball, foul ball. They were making him work really hard. They had some good at-bats, even though he was getting the outs.”

The Reds had to work hard for their extra-innings victory in the first game of the doubleheader Saturday — their eighth win in 12 games to that point — as Billy Hamilton drew a bases-loaded walk to win it.

“It was a battle. It’s always going to be a battle against the Cubs,” Hamilton said.

However, it’s a battle the Cubs usually win. They’re only 2-2 against the Reds this season, but they’re 42-19 against them during the last four seasons.

Quintana dominated in the second game as Anthony Rizzo doubled and drove in three runs and Ian Happ homered, just as he did in the first game. Happ is 5-for-9 with two homers and has drawn six walks so far in the series.

Darvish is 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA in two career starts against the Reds, striking out 13 and walking nine. Of the Reds’ current players, none have more than four at-bats against him.

Mahle was dominating during a 1-0 Reds win over the Cubs on April 2, allowing only one hit — a Javier Baez triple — in six innings while striking out seven and walking two in his only start against them to date.