Yu Darvish shuffled across Waveland Avenue in sweat pants and slides. A family of Cubs fans snapped photos from in front of the fire station before Friday's game.
Darvish acknowledged them but kept beelining toward the Wrigley Field gate. Even off the field he had his own unique flare and focus.
On the mound later that day, that was even more apparent.
In the Cubs' 6-3 win over the Pirates Friday, Darvish threw six shutout innings and resembled the lights-out starter he was in the second of last season.
"Today I felt the same as the second half," he said. "But still I need to work on my mechanics and normal cutter and command. But I feel like it's really close or almost the same."
The first time through the rotation, Darvish was the only starter who didn't have his best stuff. Kyle Hendricks threw a complete game shutout. Jon Lester threw five no-hit innings. Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills each pitched six innings and allowed fewer than three runs.
Then there was Darvish, who gave up three runs in four innings. Not terrible under the circumstances of a pandemic and a three-week summer camp. But not up his standard.
Darvish said he wanted to work on his splitter, changeup and hard cutter before his next start.
On Saturday, he took a different approach.
"I tried to throw fewer hard cutters," Darvish said. "I used the normal cutter, knuckle curveball and four-seam. And that worked tonight."
After walking the first batter he faced, Adam Frazier, Darvish picked off Frazier at first and retired the next two in order. He gave up just two hits, both singles with no one on base. Both pitches were at the edge of or out of the zone.
"Yu was great tonight," Cubs manager David Ross said. "Had it all working. Just spinning the breaking ball really well in the zone, out of the zone. Looked like the splitty showed up tonight and then a couple times there, late fastballs just blowing guys' doors off."
The 18 whiffs he generated were a testament to just how good all those pitches were.
"I didn't know that," Darvish said when that statistic came up in his postgame interview. "But that's enough."
How Yu Darvish began to recreate his success from the second half of last year originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago