CHICAGO – Before this season started, it appeared that two big keys for the Cubs would be comeback seasons by Kris Bryant and Yu Darvish.
After a slow start, Bryant is looking like the Bryant of his hugely productive seasons.
Darvish is looking like, well, the disappointment he’s been since he got here.
Bryant crushed his seventh home run of the season Thursday in the first inning and was on base when Anthony Rizzo hit his 10th as the Cubs overcame another short start by Darvish to beat the Miami Marlins, 4-1, at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs (22-13) took three of four in the series and increased their lead in the National League Central to one game over the idle Milwaukee Brewers (23-16), who come to town for a weekend series.
Bryant is hot. He has homered in four of his past five games and has reached base in 19 straight. That has him feeling a lot better about himself.
“Yeah, when things are going good, you’re feeling good,” he said. “When things are bad, you think you stink. This game’s hard enough. We always beat ourselves up when we’re not playing the way we want to play.”
Bryant’s homer was a line shot over the wall against Trevor Richards. He walked and rode home on Rizzo’s blast to center field in the fifth. It was Rizzo’s 201st career homer and his 200th with the Cubs.
That should have been enough to get Darvish a victory, but he couldn’t get past four innings as he threw 97 pitches while walking six and striking out seven. He gave up the Miami run.
Manager Joe Maddon said before the past two of Darvish’s starts (both four innings) that he wanted Darvish to be more “visceral” or “primal” and pitch instead of think. “Until last Saturday, I was thinking too much,” said Darvish, who has an ERA of 5.40 and one quality start among his eight total starts. “But today I was focusing more on attacking the hitter. Command was off, that was it.
“I’m a thinker in my almost-15-year career, but absolutely it’s too much. I want to be better. It’s my challenge, but I think that’s good for me.”
Addison Russell was not in Thursday’s lineup after starting Wednesday night in his return to the Cubs.
Maddon said Russell would start Friday’s series opener against Milwaukee Brewers left-hander Gio Gonzalez, but that he would ease Russell back into regular playing time.
“It will be an ease-in process,” Maddon said. “From what I saw [Wednesday], he still needs a little work in some areas. I don’t think he was totally accomplished at the plate yet. But even if he’s not, he’s still really attractive in the latter part of the game defensively, too.
“He looked fine to me catching a groundball and throwing it. We’ll ease him in. I’d like him to get some more work with [the hitting coaches] and just work it from there.”
The Cubs recalled Russell from Triple-A Iowa, where they had optioned him after he served a 40-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s policy on domestic violence.
May the 9th be with him
Bryant has hit a May 9 home run in four of his five major league seasons. The exception was 2016, when the Cubs’ game that day was postponed. Bryant hit his first big-league home run May 9, 2015.