Neither pitcher will likely be thinking about it on Monday night at Wrigley Field, but when Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta take the field, past and present will stand toe-to-toe on the same diamond at the Friendly Confines.
For the first time since he signed as a free agent with the Phillies, Arrieta will go up against his former teammates as an opposing pitcher.
Arrieta, who won the 2015 National Cy Young Award with the Cubs and helped guide the team to a 2016 World Series title, signed a 3-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies prior to the 2018 campaign, leaving the team where he had resurrected his career under the tutelage of Chris Bosio and company.
The road for Arrieta has been a bit bumpy since leaving Chicago, but he’s maintained solid, if not overly impressive, statistics. He has a 14-15 record and a 3.98 ERA in 40 starts with the Phillies, and while those numbers aren’t quite as good as the ones he posted in Chicago, he has been able to stay healthy and on the mound for the Phils throughout his time there.
On the other side of the coin is Darvish, whom essentially replaced Arrieta on the Cubs’ payroll and in their starting rotation. After signing a 6-year deal worth $126 million in 2018, Darvish has struggled both with his health, only making 17 starts since he signed the deal, and with his command, posting a 3-6 record with a 5.05 ERA in those outings.
This season has been rough for Darvish, as he has a 2-3 record, a 5.14 ERA and a 7.07 walks-per-nine-innings rate. If Darvish was a qualifying starter (he is just a few innings shy of hitting that threshold), that number would be the worst in baseball by a wide margin, according to statistics available at Baseball Reference.
Darvish’s control problems were not present in his last outing, however, as he gave up no walks and struck out 11 batters in his start against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday at the Great American Ballpark. It’s one of many potential good signs that Darvish has shown this season, but the hurler hasn’t quite put everything together just yet as he continues to look for the form he displayed in Texas and Los Angeles.
It seems appropriate then that Darvish and Arrieta will square off against one another at Wrigley Field on Monday night. Both pitchers, still trying to live up to their big free agent contracts, will likely treasure the conditions at the Friendly Confines, as cool temperatures will likely hurt the hitters they will face.
More importantly however, Arrieta will get a chance to bask in the limelight a bit as he makes his return to the place where his baseball career really hit its stride. Without his dominant second half of the 2015 campaign, it’s highly unlikely that the team would have made the playoffs at all, much less gotten to within a series of a World Series appearance.
Arrieta’s pair of no-hitters with the Cubs represent the most dominant outings the team has seen in recent years (with apologies to Kyle Hendricks’ 81-pitch complete game against the Cardinals in early May), and his no-nonsense attitude rightfully resonated with Cubs fans as a group.
For Darvish, stepping into Arrieta’s cleats has been a challenge, to say the least. No, the Cubs didn’t explicitly say that he was replacing Jake, or that they wanted him to experience similar success to what the hurler did in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, but the implication was there thanks to the big money that the team forked over to sign him.
Their salaries are similar, and so too are the expectations, and it will all be on full display for fans and baseball scribes alike on Monday night.