After a frustrating start with the Chicago Cubs, Yu Darvish is starting to live up to his big free-agent contract.
Darvish pitched five effective innings, Jason Heyward drove in three runs and the Cubs beat the slumping Milwaukee Brewers 7-2 on Sunday to sweep their weekend series.
Heyward and Kyle Schwarber homered as the NL Central leaders won for the 11th time in 13 games at Wrigley Field. Anthony Rizzo collected four hits.
Darvish, who turns 33 on Aug. 16, signed a $126 million, six-year contract with Chicago in February 2018, but struggled with injuries and confidence for much of his first year with the Cubs and the start of this season.
Not so much right now.
Darvish (4-5) allowed one run and five hits, struck out eight and walked none in the series finale against Milwaukee. He retired 10 straight batters at one point.
He might have pitched longer, but he was battling an illness. He didn’t speak with the media afterward because he wasn’t feeling well.
“He didn’t say anything until after (the fifth), so he was starting to feel it right about then,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Since the beginning of July, Darvish has 44 strikeouts and just two walks over six outings. In his first 16 starts, he walked 49 and seemed hesitant to pitch to contact at times.
“He’s pitching as well as anybody in the league right now,” Maddon said.
“He’s nasty, period; I’ve always felt that way about Yu,” Heyward said. “Right now, I feel like he’s settled in, relaxed and he’s not trying to do too much.”
Christian Yelich hit his major league-best 37th homer for Milwaukee, which has dropped six of seven. The third-place Brewers trail the Cubs by four games after being outscored 17-5 in the series.
Milwaukee rookie Trent Grisham picked up his first major league hit in the first and his first homer in the eighth. He went 3 for 4 in his third big league game.
“It’s simple: We got beat,” manager Craig Counsell said. “We just didn’t score enough in the end. Tough to win scoring one or two runs per game.”
Derek Holland pitched a scoreless inning and Tyler Chatwood finished for his second save.
Milwaukee starter Adrian Houser (4-5) allowed four runs and nine hits in five innings.
With two outs in the first, Yelich homered to left on a 3-2 pitch. Heyward tied it with his second leadoff homer of the series, driving Houser’s first pitch over the wall in center for his 17th homer on the season.
The Cubs grabbed a 3-1 lead in the second. Heyward drove in the first run with a triple and then scored on a single by Nicholas Castellanos.
Schwarber’s solo drive to right in the fifth — his 25th homer on the season — made it 4-1. Heyward drove in another run in the sixth on a fielder’s choice grounder.
Chicago added two more runs in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Tony Kemp and an RBI single by David Bote off Alex Claudio.
Cubs starters have gone six straight games without issuing a walk, which the team says is its longest such streak since at least 1905.
“It’s really fun to watch when you make the other team earn a trip down to first base,” Maddon said.
The Cubs placed All-Star catcher Willson Contreras on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain. Catcher Taylor Davis was recalled from Triple-A Iowa.
Contreras was injured during Saturday’s game. After hitting a fly ball, he ran two steps toward first base before reaching back and grabbing his right leg.
He is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday to determine how long he’s likely to be sidelined.
Cubs: 3B/OF Kris Bryant is dealing with a sore knee, but Maddon said he was held out of the lineup simply for a day of rest. “He could have played today, but I chose to do it this way,” Maddon said.
Brewers: RHP Jordan Lyles (6-7, 5.15 ERA) goes Monday night in the opener of a three-game series at Pittsburgh. RHP Dario Agrazal (2-2, 3.65 ERA) pitches for the Pirates.
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (8-8, 3.07 ERA) starts Monday night against Oakland in the opener of a three-game set. RHP Chris Bassitt (7-5, 3.84 ERA) gets the ball for the visiting A’s.
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