HEADLINE

Greinke, Darvish battle as Cubs host Diamondbacks

Field Level Media

April 20, 2019 at 8:05 am.

Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke will try to break his Wrigley Field curse on Saturday afternoon in a big-name pitching matchup at the Chicago Cubs.

Greinke (2-1, 5.79) will be going for his third consecutive victory. He will be opposed by Chicago Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish, who is 1-2 with a 6.11 ERA but is coming off his best performance of the season.

Greinke has pitched well since getting shelled by the Los Angeles Dodgers for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings in the season opener. He has 25 strikeouts while walking only two in his past three outings, including throwing seven strong innings in a win over the San Diego Padres on Sunday.

The problem: He is 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA in five career starts at Wrigley. He has allowed 26 runs (24 earned) and 38 hits in 26 innings.

At least the weather forecast calls for calmer conditions Saturday than what the teams played in Friday, when the Cubs were aided by Kris Bryant’s wind-blown double in the second inning. It looked like a harmless fly ball behind second base, but the wind played havoc with it, turning around second baseman Wilmer Flores, who stumbled and fell as the ball fell into no-man’s land in shallow right field for a two-out, two-run hit.

“The compelling play was the pop-up that would have been the third out of the inning,” said Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo. “I thought at least three guys could have made the play. It’s unfortunate.”

Chicago has won four consecutive games and its starting pitchers have posted a 0.96 ERA (five earned runs) over 46 2/3 innings in the past seven outings.

“It’s contagious,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re on a pretty good roll right now. I think it’s very sustainable, the starters especially. And the bullpen, too. The bullpen has really righted itself.”

Darvish picked up the win Monday at the Miami Marlins, throwing 5 2/3 innings — his longest start in four tries — while allowing two runs and striking out a season-high eight. He walked four but did pump up his fastball to 98 mph late in his outing.

“I’m trying to throw as hard as I could — not for the strike zone — just as hard as I could,” Darvish said in the Chicago Tribune after that game. “I should do that for next time … Seriously, I’m thinking too much about (throwing) strikes.”

Darvish should like seeing Arizona. He is 2-0 with a 2.75 ERA in three starts against the Diamondbacks, striking out nearly two batters per inning — 38 in 19 2/3 innings — with only two walks.

Chicago nearly posted its third consecutive shutout Friday, but Brad Brach gave up a run in the ninth before Pedro Strop had to lock down a save in a 5-1 victory. The Cubs’ streak of 31 scoreless innings was its longest since another 31-inning run in July 1976, according to STATS.

Lovullo found something he liked Friday to carry over into Saturday.

“We had some quality at-bats at times, but we couldn’t string anything together,” he said. “But what we did do is force them to maneuver in their bullpen. We didn’t shut down; we kept banging away at it and make them bring their closer in the game.”

Greinke also will be looking to continue his hot streak at the plate. He is batting .444 (4 of 9) with a double and two home runs.