Darvish soaks up Wrigley, even as tornado sirens sound

Darvish soaks up Wrigley, even as tornado sirens sound
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CHICAGO – About an hour before the first pitch Monday night, a tornado warning went into effect for the north side of Chicago. Sirens sounded throughout Wrigleyville and fans hid in the lobby.

But before the torrential rains arrive, Yu Darvishwho was scheduled to start for the Padres, remained on the field, running through a series of stretches near the right-field cautionary trail.

It was then, before his first start at Wrigley Field since the December 2020 trade that sent him to San Diego, that Darvish took some time to reflect. He had signed a six-year contract with the Cubs ahead of the 2018 season. In Chicago, he hit some highs, including a second-place finish at the Cy Young Award in 2020. He also suffered low lows — injuries to his triceps and elbows in 2018 that cut his season short after just eight games and a 4.95 ERA.

So, as tens of thousands of people at Wrigley Field took shelter, Darvish decided he wanted to absorb it all for a minute or two.

“To be honest with you, it was a bit of a sentimental moment for me,” Darvish said afterwards. “The tornado warning came and everyone left. The fans left the stands. It was like a moment between me and Wrigley Field.

After a delay that lasted an hour and 25 minutes, Darvish reminded the Wrigley faithful precisely what they were missing. The veteran right-hander was brilliant (again) Monday night in the Padres’ 4-1 win over the Cubs. He pitched eight one-run innings, striking out seven and allowing five hits.

“Obviously it’s a place where a lot has happened to me – or a lot has happened to me,” Darvish said. “But at the end of the day, I’m really grateful to be here, throwing.”

Yan Gomes’ solo homer in the second inning was Darvish’s only real mistake of the night, a hanging slider that ended up in the left field seats. From then on, Darvish was virtually untouchable against his old team. He used a proven formula that they should be familiar with in Chicago. He bet on the cutter early, and just when the Cubs hitters could have taken that spin, he blasted his high-octane four-seam fastball right past them.

Then, at the decisive moment of the game, Darvish dug into his bag of tricks. With two outs and the tying run at the plate in the eighth inning, he edged Cubs left fielder Ian Happ, 1-2, then threw a dirty 91-mph splitter just below the strike zone.

“One of my best pitches tonight,” Darvish said.

Happ swung and missed. Darvish jumped off the mound and let out a cry. One round later, closer Taylor Rogers slammed the door on a 38-24 start for the Padres, their best in franchise history and good enough to move them into a virtual tie for first place in National League West.

Afterwards, the Padres decided to keep things in perspective.

“We still have 100 more,” said Jake Cronenworthwhich went 3 for 4. “Which is a lot.”

This overview has become something of a theme in San Diego. The collapse of 2021 is still fresh in everyone’s mind. In fact, no one in the Padres clubhouse even seemed aware that they had moved into a tie for the division lead.

“We’re just worried about ourselves,” the first baseman said Eric Hosmer. “…We stick to the things we’re good at, we think we’ll be at the top of that chart at the end of the year.”

Indeed, there’s reason to believe the Padres’ early-season success is more sustainable this time around. This is mainly because of their seven-deep starting rotation.

Joe Musgrove has been the undisputed ace on the Padres staff this season. But take a start in San Francisco out of the equation, and Darvish was a close second. He lowered his ERA to 3.35 on Monday night. Without that nine-point blip against the Giants, it would be 2.20.

“It’s really hard to create a plan against him because he has so many pitches that move in so many different ways,” Hosmer said. “It’s kind of a nightmare as a hitter.”

Caretaker manager Ryan Flaherty said: “He has so many weapons and so many different shapes of breaking balls and fastballs, he’s really just a magician with the ball.”

Not that anyone in Chicago needs an encore. They’ve seen it here before. And once the rains stopped and skies calmed Monday night, vintage Yu Darvish was back at Wrigley Field, but this time dressed in brown.

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