SAN DIEGO (AP) — Yu Darvish and the Chicago Cubs are heading back to Wrigley Field feeling better about their situation than they had in several days.
Darvish struck out a season-high 14 and allowed only two hits in six innings, and the Cubs beat the San Diego Padres 4-1 Thursday to remain tied with Milwaukee for the NL’s second wild-card spot.
“Everyone has confidence for sure,” Darvish said. “I know the last 10 days was tough, but we still have to compete each day.”
If not for two walks in the fifth inning, Darvish might have gone deeper.
“He wants to be out there,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Those couple walks, I mean, he could have got seven. That one inning when he walked (Ty) France and (Luis) Urias, that put him at 88 after five. I’m always counting pitches and I’m looking, this is a possible seven innings, at least, and then the walks just did not permit that to happen. But he’s uncanny coming out of his breaking ball. It’s ridiculously good, especially against left-handers.
“There’s nothing to say negative about his performance. It was great.”
The Padres scored in the ninth when Manny Machado was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and two outs, but Rowan Wick struck out Luis Urias to end it.
Chicago split the four-game series and won for just the second time in seven games. The Brewers beat the Miami Marlins 3-2.
Darvish (6-6) retired his first eight batters before allowing his first hit, an infield single by starter Dinelson Lamet. Darvish kicked the ball with his right foot and it caromed to third baseman Kris Bryant. Darvish struck out Greg Garcia to end the inning.
The big right-hander had at least one strikeout in every inning. After Greg Garcia tripled leading off the sixth, Darvish finished strong by striking out the side, including Eric Hosmer for the third straight time.
Darvish was one shy of his career high, set Aug. 12, 2013, at Houston while he was with the Texas Rangers. He led the big leagues that year with 277 strikeouts.
Darvish said he blocked out the Cubs’ losses to the Padres the previous two nights.
“You know me, I don’t care,” he said. “I always focus to do my job and throw strikes and throw the right pitch in the right situation. That’s it.”
As well as he pitched, “Today’s not good enough,” he said. “Knuckle-curveball for sure, splitter is not there, hard cutter was good. Slow curve was good. That’s pretty much it.”
Said San Diego’s Wil Myers: “That was one of the better versions I’ve seen out of him. He was mixing really well, locating well. When you’re getting some pitches off the plate and have the ability to get back in counts sometimes, that’s really what it is.”
Myers was ejected by plate umpire Ramon De Jesus in the ninth after he questioned a strike call.
“You guys saw the game. There were a lot of calls that could have been different,” Myers said. “I think that 3-1 pitch in the sixth inning was tough. I worked a walk there. Darvish obviously threw the ball really well. I think that last pitch just kind of set me off. It is what it is. I know umpires don’t get them right all the time, but I feel like sometimes we’ve got to lock it in a little bit better.”
Darvish has 204 strikeouts in 163 1/3 innins.
“He had a good mix, good stuff today,” San Diego manager Andy Green said. “He’s got punchout stuff. He always has. When he’s on, he’s really tough. He threw a really good game. There were some pitches at the margins that you know how we felt about them today.
“Overall though just not enough competitive at-bats, getting balls in play late in counts when needed to. You look up, you’re in the ninth inning, you’ve got a chance to win the baseball game with one swing of the bat. That’s kind of the way that game went.”
Down 4-0, the Padres scored when Machado pinch-hit for the first time in his career and was plunked. Urias looked at 2-2 breaking ball for strike three — Cubs pitchers fanned 19 overall.
Lamet (2-5) issued leadoff walks in the first and fourth and both scored, including Anthony Rizzo on Kris Bryant’s sacrifice fly in the first. Kyle Schwarber walked opening the fourth and Bryant singled. They pulled off a double steal and scored on Ian Happ’s single.
Lamet allowed three runs and four hits in five innings, struck out seven and walked two.
Ben Zobrist had an RBI grounder in the seventh.
Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (12-10, 4.51) is scheduled to start the opener of a three-game home series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are due to counter with LHP Steven Brault (4-4, 4.13).
Padres: LHP Joey Lucchesi (10-7, 3.84) is scheduled to start the opener of a three-game series at Colorado, which will counter with RHP Jeff Hoffman (1-6, 7.06).