CHICAGO (AP) — Cubs manager Joe Maddon had a plan for facing Yu Darvish in the Texas star’s return from the disabled list: load up on lefties and wait him out.
It worked, neutralizing Darvish’s nasty slider and his nine strikeouts.
Darvish couldn’t get through the fifth inning and the lefty-hitting Anthony Rizzo’s two-run double helped lead Chicago past the Rangers 3-1 on Saturday.
“A guy like that, if you just let him have his way, he’ll be sitting on 70 (pitches) in the sixth inning, he’s going to beat you up,” Maddon said. “His stuff is that good.”
In his first start since June 8 because of shoulder pain, Darvish (2-1) reached 98 mph and allowed only two runs and two hits. But the Japanese right-hander lasted just 4 1/3 innings thanks to four walks and shoddy defense.
“I was throwing the ball well,” Darvish said through an interpreter while declaring himself pain-free. “It was a little different feeling from the last rehab outing in a good way.”
Jason Hammel (8-5) struck out seven in six innings for the Cubs, who won their second straight in the interleague matchup of division leaders.
Hector Rondon pitched a perfect ninth to complete the three-hitter for his 15th save.
Darvish, a three-time All-Star, was making his fourth start since missing all of 2015 following Tommy John surgery.
Darvish fanned Kris Bryant twice, including on a slider in the third. Seven of Darvish’s strikeouts came on the slider that was dipping out of the strike zone.
“(Kris Bryant) has really not been in chase mode, and when he’s chasing the slider you know how good it actually is,” Maddon said. “He was all of that today.”
Darvish was lifted after 90 pitches when second baseman Rougned Odor dropped what could have been an inning-ending double play.
Darvish hurt himself when he walked Miguel Montero, who entered hitting .201, to lead off the third. Then Rizzo’s two-out double to right extended his hitting streak to 11 games and put the Cubs ahead to stay.
“I threw that slider where I wanted it to be and I struck him out on the previous at-bat,” Darvish said. “Got to tip my hat to him.”
Hammel allowed three hits in his first victory since June 4. Matt Szczur pinch-hit for the right-hander in the sixth and hit an RBI single off Shawn Tolleson. It was Szczur’s 10th pinch hit and second for an RBI in as many days.
Texas’ lone run in the game — and the series — came in odd fashion in the second.
Ryan Rua singled and scored from second on Elvis Andrus’ infield single after the first baseman Rizzo threw wildly to the plate.
Texas has dropped a season high-tying four straight and nine of 11.
“We’ve got to find a way of putting a good combination of a solid start and solid offense on the board,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said, “and play good defense.”
Rangers: RF Shin-Soo Choo (back) was out of the lineup for a second straight day, but an MRI showed no major issues. … RHP Kyle Lohse (oblique) threw a bullpen session before the game. He’s scheduled to start Tuesday against the Angels. … RHP Jose Leclerc was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to make room for Darvish.
Cubs: CF Dexter Fowler (hamstring) will remain in Chicago through the weekend before a planned minor league rehab assignment.
POTATO CHIP DIET
Hammel, who had to leave his last start early with cramping in his thumb, had no issues this time. The reason: potato chips.
“(The doctor) said if cramps are a chronic thing, potato chips, because they have a lot of potassium. And obviously the sea salt helps retain water,” said Hammel, who said he ate some between innings.
“Potato chip prescription or PCP is what I’m going to go with,” he added.
DARVISH AT THE DISH
Darvish batted for the first time since 2014 and went up left-handed. He didn’t swing while striking out on three pitches in the third. Darvish batted right-handed in the past.
“Hitting right-handed put more stress on my right shoulder, right elbow,” Darvish said.
Texas LHP Cole Hamels (9-2, 3.21 ERA) on Sunday makes his first start at Wrigley Field since throwing a no-hitter against the Cubs last July. It came in his final start for Philadelphia. Cubs RHP John Lackey (7-5, 3.70) is winless in his last four starts.