SAN DIEGO – Yu Darvish and the 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, on Thursday to remain tied with Milwaukee for the National League’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 (innings). 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.
The Cubs split the four-game series and won for only the second time in seven games. The Brewers beat the Miami Marlins, 3-2.
Darvish (6-6) retired the first eight Padres 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 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.”
Darvish has 204 strikeouts in 1631/3 innins.
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.
Ben Zobrist had an RBI grounder in the seventh.
Cubs: Left-hander 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 lefty Steven Brault (4-4, 4.13) on Friday.
Padres: Lefty Joey Lucchesi (10-7, 3.84) is scheduled to start the opener of a three-game series Friday at Colorado, which will counter with right-hander Jeff Hoffman (1-6, 7.06).