Yu Darvish helps bring Cubs to brink of division title

Yu Darvish pitched seven strong innings for his NL-leading eighth win, Willson Contreras homered twice and the Chicago Cubs moved to the brink of clinching the NL Central title by pounding the crosstown White Sox 10-0 Friday night.

Victor Caratini, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez also went deep as Cubs used the longball to break out of an offensive funk and end a three-game losing streak. They reduced their magic number for securing the division crown to one game after St. Louis split a doubleheader with Milwaukee.

“I like the homers,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “That’s getting back to what these guys do.”

The Cubs entered the game with a .220 team batting average, fourth lowest in the majors, but unloaded against the fading White Sox.

Contreras hit a three-run shot off Dylan Cease (5-4) in the third, then exited the batter’s box with sky-high high bat-flip. He greeted White Sox utility man Yolmer Sanchez, who pitched the ninth, with a solo shot for his eighth career multi-homer game.

“We were on fire and I think we needed it today,” Contreras said. “It’s good. We finally wake up.”

The White Sox managed just three hits off Darvish and lost their season-high sixth straight. Like the Cubs, the South Siders have secured a playoff spot, but slipped into a tie for second place in the AL Central with Cleveland.

Darvish (8-3), a contender for the NL Cy Young Award, struck out five and walked one as he cruised to his first win since beating the Cardinals on Sept. 4. In three starts prior to Friday, the right-hander from Japan slipped from his earlier groove and was 0-2 with a 4.26 ERA.

“He really established the fastball today, which was a little different than his last couple of times out,” Ross said. “I thought he was really sharp today.”

Baez drove a double into the right-center field gap against Sanchez while batting left-handed, his second time swinging from that side of the plate in his major league career.

The longball once again hurt Cease, who gave up five hits — and three of the Cubs’ five homers — in 4⅔ innings. The 24-year-old righty has allowed 27 homers in 26 career starts.

The White Sox hope to rebound immediately in their final pivotal regular-season series.

“We’ve had a good season,” Cease said. “The last week hasn’t been good, but other than that we don’t need to panic. We don’t need to lose confidence. We have a lot of good players, so it’s just about bringing it to the park.”

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Source : Baseball – The Japan Times

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