Two of the National Leagues preeminent Cy Young Award candidates squared off Saturday in Game 1 of the Cubs-Reds doubleheader: Yu Darvish and Trevor Bauer.
Bauer (1.65) and Darvish (1.70) entered the day with two of the best ERAs in baseball. The matchup lived up to the hype, and Darvish out-pitched his opposition to come out on top, leading the Cubs to a 3-0 victory to snap a three-game skid.
Some quick takes from the game:
He may not want to think about it, but his excellence on the mound cannot be ignored.
Darvish pitched six shutout innings on Saturday, allowing seven hits and two walks on 104 pitches (75 strikes). He struck out eight, including two big punchouts in the fifth inning. The Reds started the inning with two singles, but Darvish struck out Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez, later getting out of the inning on a 5-3 ground out.
Darvish (1.47) now has the second-best ERA among NL starters, only trailing the Braves Max Fried (1.35). Both have made seven starts; Clevelands Shane Bieber (1.35) is No. 1 in baseball, also in seven starts.
The Cubs made Bauer work in his 5 1/3 innings.
In the third inning, Anthony Rizzo took a cutter and curveball for strikes to start his at-bat. Quickly going down 0-2, Rizzo went to work, fouling off three 0-2 pitches and a pair of 1-2 offerings from Bauer.
On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, having already thrown Rizzo a sinker, cutter, curve and four-seam fastball, Bauer went back to the sinker. He made a good pitch, locating it at the bottom of the strike zone, but Rizzo put a better swing on it, launching it into the right field bleachers to put the Cubs up 2-0.
Seeing all of those pitches helped Rizzo in the sixth, when he launched his second homer of the game.
Bauer threw 112 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, including 69 through three. He limited the damage, allowing only four hits, but the Cubs worked his pitch count. A 10-pitch fourth helped him, but nine- and seven-pitch ABs from Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ in the fifth beefed up his pitch count.
In what was a very unique moment, Darvish's glove fell off his left hand mid-delivery in the fourth inning. It apparently didn't bother him, as he continued with his motion and got Freddy Galvis to hit a foul ball off home plate.
"The reason why we put him on the IL is to try to get him as healthy as we possibly can. So we'll see when he gets through this rehab how he feels, and we'll manage that when it comes." David Ross on Kris Bryants injury status.