CHICAGO – Yu Darvish knew his pitch count was climbing, but he wasn't exactly showing signs of fatigue, either.
Darvish took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his third straight dominant start, and the major league-leading Chicago Cubs defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2 on Thursday night.
Darvish (3-1) allowed just one hit — Justin Smoak’s towering solo homer to right field with one out in the seventh inning on his 98th pitch — before Casey Sadler relieved to start the eighth. The 33-year-old right-hander from Japan struck out 11 and threw 104 pitches.
He's twice come within one out of a no-hitter, both times with the Texas Rangers. Those near-misses weren't on his mind against the Brewers.
“I know I'm not going to get another inning because of the pitch count,” Darvish said. “I just tried to keep the game close.”
Before Smoak’s drive, Darvish allowed only three baserunners. He walked Ben Gamel in the second and Orlando Arcia in the fifth, and hit Christian Yelich with a low pitch in the first.
“He came out looking sharp, strike one right away,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “For the most part he was sound in his mechanics. He didn't have to labor at all through the game."
Darvish notched his final two strikeouts, both swinging, around Smoak's homer.
“We’ve obviously been struggling offensively but I thought this was a good pitching performance,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It was 97 (mph), breaking ball at 80 mph, cutters. He pitched really well tonight.”
“It didn’t feel like we had a lot of pitches to hit."
Kyle Schwarber hit a solo homer in the second as Chicago improved to 13-3 for the first time since 1907. Javier Baez, Ian Happ and David Bote each had an RBI.
“You look at the depth of our team and it's just unbelievable,” Schwarber said. "Professional at-bat after professional at-bat.
“You couldn't ask for a better group of men to be in a room with, especially going through a pandemic here and trying to complete a season.”
Darvish signed a $126 million, six-year contract with the Cubs as a free agent in February 2018, but has been hampered by elbow and triceps injuries since coming to Chicago. But after a rocky first outing this season, against the Brewers on July 25, Darvish has been in a groove.
He’s trimmed his ERA to 1.88 and has fanned 27 in 24 innings.
Sadler worked around a single by Arcia in a scoreless eighth. Rowan Wick allowed a single by Avisail Garcia and a ground-rule double to Smoak with two outs in the ninth for Milwaukee’s second run, but closed it out for his third save and a combined four-hitter.
Cubs slugger Kris Bryant was held out of the starting lineup with a sore left wrist and ring finger.
Ross didn’t disclose if Bryant would be available off the bench, but said he made the move out of “an abundance of caution.”
Bryant was injured trying to make a diving catch in left field Wednesday in the fifth inning of the Cubs' 7-2 win at Cleveland. He remained in the game and hit a home run in the sixth before being pulled in the eighth
With Bryant out, Schwarber started in left field and Bote at third base.
The Cubs jumped ahead 1-0 in the first. Nico Hoerner laced Brett Anderson’s first pitch for a double and scored on Baez’s groundout.
Schwarber led off the second with an opposite-field shot to left to make it 2-0.
Chicago tacked on two more runs in the sixth off reliever Corbin Burnes. Happ drove in the first with a double and Bote followed with an RBI single.
Darvish’s pitch count was piling up entering the seventh. There was no doubt on Smoak’s drive, which sailed out to right. Before that, the hardest-hit ball off Darvish was Yelich’s liner straight at right fielder Steven Souza Jr. leading off the fourth.
Anderson (0-2) allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings.
The Brewers optioned LHP Eric Lauer to their alternate training site in Appleton, Wisconsin. Lauer dropped to 0-2 and his ERA ballooned to 12.54 after Minnesota pounded him for seven runs on nine hits over 3 2/3 innings in a start at Milwaukee on Wednesday. Counsell wasn’t ready to name Lauer’s replacement in the rotation, but the Brewers recalled LHP Angel Perdomo and selected RHP Drew Rasmussen from the alternate site.
Brewers: Placed RHP Justin Grimm on the 10-day injured list with a callus laceration on his right index finger after it flared up in a 12-2 loss to the Twins on Wednesday.
Cubs: Ross said he was just “trying to be extra cautious” with Bryant. “I don’t think there’s a great deal of concern,” Ross said. “We just want to make sure he’s good to go.” … Schwarber returned after being scratched on Wednesday with a bruised right knee.
Brewers: RHP Brandon Woodruff (1-1, 2.53 ERA) faces Cubs RHP Tyler Chatwood (2-1, 5.40) on Friday night. Woodruff’s loss was on opening day at Wrigley Field. Chatwood was sharp in his first two starts before being roughed up for eight runs in 2 1/3 innings at Kansas City last week.
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