|Darvish faces tough Brewers in quest for 1st win|
CHICAGO -- When Yu Darvish signed a $126 million contract to join the Cubs in the offseason, he was viewed as a free agent prize.
But as Darvish prepares to make his fifth start of the season Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers, the 31-year-old right-hander has yet to deliver. Not only has he yet to win his first game for the Cubs, but he has been hit hard, has allowed at least four earned runs and has failed to get out of the fifth inning in three of his four starts.
Darvish (0-2, 6.86 ERA) faces some of the big-contract pressure that teammates Jon Lester and Jason Heyward have in the past. And while manager Joe Maddon sees some legitimacy in the notion of the pressure to live up to expectations while in a new city, he remains convinced Darvish's struggles are temporary.
"I think it's approach," Maddon said. "Just like I think our hitting goes back to approach, I think the same for pitching, just trying to get him to slow down moments. I think this concept that he doesn't compete is absolutely fabricated and false.
"This guy is one of the best pitchers in the world. How could you ever arrive at that point ... if you don't compete? But there are times even good players don't process the moment well enough and let things get away from them. That's where I think he's at."
Darvish, who is 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA in a pair of career starts against Milwaukee, will attempt to cool off the Brewers, who have won eight of their last nine after the Cubs' snapped their winning streak Thursday with a 1-0 victory.
The Cubs continue to play without third baseman Kris Bryant, who missed his third straight game Thursday after being hit in the helmet by a 98-mph fastball in Colorado. Maddon said as big of an impact Bryant makes in his lineup, he doesn't want to rush the former National League MVP back too quickly.
"It's never going to be a unilateral decision on my part to insist that he plays, ever," Maddon said. "I'm listening to KB, the doctors, trying to do the right things and get him back out there. It's early. I really feel strongly that he's going to be fine, but I don't want to push it."
After seeing their win streak snapped in Thursday's loss, the Brewers will turn to Brent Suter (1-2, 5.68) for Friday's matinee. Suter is 1-1 in seven career outings (three starts) against the Cubs and will be looking for his first victory since March 31. Suter has pitched at least five innings in each of his starts this year, but it coming off an effort against the Miami Marlins when he allowed five runs and two home runs.
After Ryan Braun stepped in at first base for the Brewers for injured starter Eric Thames, manager Craig Counsell said Braun and Jesus Aguilar will split time at the position. Thames tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb diving for a ball and will likely need surgery.
The Brewers will adjust the best they can in what could be an extended absence.
"(Playing first base is an adjustment for Braun) just in the fact he hasn't been there for three weeks now," Counsell told reporters Thursday, according to the team's official website. "But this is why we have done this. In case things happen, we have places we can go."