SAN DIEGO – Yu Darvish and the Chicago Cubs are heading back to Wrigley Field feeling better about their situation than they had in several days.
Darvish struck out a season-high 14 and gave up only two hits in six innings, and the Cubs beat the San Diego Padres 4-1 Thursday to remain tied with Milwaukee for the NL's second wild-card spot.
“Everyone has confidence for sure,” Darvish said. “I know the last 10 days was tough, but we still have to compete each day.”
If not for two walks in the fifth inning, Darvish might have gone deeper.
“He wants to be out there,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Those couple walks, I mean, he could have got seven. That one inning when he walked (Ty) France and (Luis) Urias, that put him at 88 after five. I'm always counting pitches and I'm looking, this is a possible seven innings, at least, and then the walks just did not permit that to happen. But he's uncanny coming out of his breaking ball. It's ridiculously good, especially against left-handers.
“There's nothing to say negative about his performance. It was great.”
The Padres scored in the ninth when Manny Machado was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and two outs, but Rowan Wick struck out Luis Urias to end it.
Chicago split the four-game series and won for just the second time in seven games. The Brewers beat the Miami Marlins 3-2.
Darvish (6-6) retired his first eight batters before giving up his first hit, an infield single by starter and former TinCaps star Dinelson Lamet. Darvish kicked the ball with his right foot and it caromed to third baseman Kris Bryant. Darvish struck out Greg Garcia to end the inning.
The big right-hander had at least one strikeout in every inning. After Greg Garcia tripled leading off the sixth, Darvish finished strong by striking out the side, including Eric Hosmer for the third straight time.
Darvish was one shy of his career high, set Aug. 12, 2013, at Houston while he was with the Texas Rangers. He led the big leagues that year with 277 strikeouts.
Darvish said he blocked out the Cubs' losses to the Padres the previous two nights.
“You know me, I don't care,” he said. “I always focus to do my job and throw strikes and throw the right pitch in the right situation. That's it.”
As well as he pitched, “Today's not good enough,” he said. “Knuckle-curveball for sure, splitter is not there, hard cutter was good. Slow curve was good. That's pretty much it.”
Down 4-0, the Padres scored when Machado pinch-hit for the first time in his career and was plunked.