MILWAUKEE – Two suddenly-key members of the Cubs figured prominently Saturday night against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Starting pitcher Yu Darvish displayed little ill effect from the forearm tightness that scratched him from last Sunday’s start.
Addison Russell, thrust back into the role of everyday shortstop with Javy Báez out with a hairline fracture of his left thumb, broke a scoreless tie with a home run in the fifth inning.
Russell, however committed a throwing error to begin the bottom of the ninth inning, allowing Tyler Austin to reach. Christian Yelich doubled him home with two outs for a 3-2 Brewers victory.
Darvish looked sharp, working five scoreless innings and giving up three hits while walking one and striking out seven. He threw 72 pitches. Darvish has been the Cubs’ steadiest starter of late, and with other pitchers enduring their ups and downs, Darvish will hold a key to the Cubs’ postseason chances.
Russell, whose playing time has fluctuated after he returned from a domestic-violence-related suspension, moves back to the role he played when the Cubs won the 2016 World Series.
“You look for other people to all of a sudden just maybe rise to the occasion,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I don’t want them to try to do more. I just want them to do their jobs.”
Russell made his 13th start at shortstop this season Saturday.
“I have to watch him closely,” Maddon said. “He’s capable. At this time of the year, I don’t think he’s been overplayed. Just watching him and watching the schedule, if you wanted to, give him a day off.”
Change of plans: The Cubs will flip-flop starting pitchers the next two days. Jon Lester will start Sunday’s series finale against the Brewers with Kyle Hendricks moving to Monday night’s series opener at San Diego.
Dream comes true for Hultzen: Left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen finally made it to the big leagues. The 29-year-old was called up by the Cubs from Triple-A Iowa on Saturday.
Hultzen was the second pick overall in the 2011 draft by the Seattle Mariners. But shoulder ailments derailed his career. He missed all of the 2014 and 2017 seasons. The Cubs signed him to a minor league contract in February 2018.
“I’m not even sure words can describe it,” he said. “Gosh, it’s been a long road. I just think about all the ups and downs of these past few years. It just makes it all worth it.”
He appeared in 14 games with Iowa this year, going 0-1 with a 1.26 ERA and three saves. To make room on the 40-man roster for Hultzen, the Cubs designated catcher Taylor Davis for assignment.
“Javy is the heart of this team,” said catcher Willson Contreras. He plays for us like his hair is on fire. We’re going to miss him a lot, but like somebody says: ‘One steps out. One steps in.’”