CHICAGO -- If the radar guns at Wrigley Field and the reactions by the Cubs' hitters were accurate on Saturday afternoon, the Rangers have to be pleased with Yu Darvish's return. Chicago, however, was just as happy with Jason Hammel's first start of the second half.
Anthony Rizzo smacked a two-run double to back Hammel, who struck out seven over six innings, and led the Cubs to a 3-1 Interleague victory over Darvish and the Rangers. It was Chicago's third straight win, while Texas has lost 11 of its past 14 games.
This was Darvish's fourth start of the season, but his first since June 8 after missing time because of discomfort in his neck and shoulder. The scoreboard at Wrigley flashed 98 mph on at least two fastballs from Darvish to Kris Bryant, but he kept the Cubs off balance mainly with his slider. The right-hander was lifted after throwing 90 pitches and striking out nine over 4 1/3 innings.
"It was a challenge for us today," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Hammel threw the ball well and their bullpen threw the ball very well. We saw what we needed to from Darvish. He pitched well enough to show he can handle this."
Hammel made an effort this offseason to get stronger physically and mentally to overcome second-half struggles, which have hindered him in his career. The Cubs hadn't done too well in his starts in the latter part of the first half either, and they were 0-6 in the right-hander's previous six outings. He had to leave his last start because of cramping in his right hand. What was different on Saturday? Potato chips, prescribed by the team doctor.
"For my cramps, if it's a chronic thing, [the doctor] said potato chips because they have a lot of potassium and the sea salt helps retain water," Hammel said. "So I focused on that over the break and ate a lot of potato chips, and I think it turned out pretty well."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Good timing: On Friday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon lifted starter Kyle Hendricks earlier than he wanted in order to take advantage of a potential scoring situation. He called on pinch-hitter Matt Szczur, who delivered a two-run single. Maddon called it a "National League moment." On Saturday, Hammel was pulled after throwing 81 pitches over six innings, and Maddon again picked Szczur, who smacked an RBI single for a 3-1 lead.
"It's tough to do that job," Jason Heyward said of Szczur's reserve role. "He and [Tommy] La Stella, they don't play every day, but they give you good at-bats every time. They grind it out. It's not about the result with them, you just want to know they're going up there trying. They put the team first and they prepare, so it's awesome to see it pay off."
Rua hustles into run:Ryan Rua scored the Rangers' first run after standing on second with two outs in the second. Elvis Andrus hit a grounder up the middle that shortstop Addison Russell fielded on the grass, but his tough throw was off-target to first base. Andrus was safe with an infield single as Rua broke for home, scoring as first baseman Rizzo overthrew catcher Miguel Montero. Andrus was thrown out by Montero as he attempted to advance to second on the play.
"Very nice play by Rua," Banister said.
Opportunity knocks: Darvish struck out five batters in the first two innings, but he walked Montero to open the Cubs' third and one out later, Tommy La Stella singled for the first hit off the Rangers' right-hander. Anthony Rizzo lined a double to right to drive in both runners and take a 2-1 lead. Chicago has scuffled with clutch hits, and the club began the day batting .215 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Odor redeems himself: Second baseman Rougned Odor put the Rangers in fifth-inning jeopardy when he dropped a throw from third baseman Adrian Beltre on what could have been an inning-ending double play off the bat of Bryant. The Cubs were left with runners at first and second with one out as Shawn Tolleson replaced Darvish. But Odor made two nice plays to make up for it. He ranged to his right to reach Rizzo's grounder and get a force at second, and then made a leaping catch to snatch Ben Zobrist's line drive to end the inning. But dropping the double-play grounder kept Darvish from going five innings and forced Banister to use Tolleson earlier than he wanted.
"We would have liked for Yu to complete five," Banister said.
"We're going to lose some games. You can't win them all. At the beginning of the season, we were torrid. Everybody was doing their job and we were clicking on all cylinders. That type of pace is hard to keep up. Obviously, we'd like to do that, but our job is to go game by game and do the best we can. We had a little bit of a hiccup there and hopefully we can ride this out and make up for some of the ground we lost." -- Hammel
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This is the fifth time in Rangers history a pitcher has struck out at least nine batters while throwing fewer than five innings. Bobby Witt struck out 10 in 4 2/3 innings against Oakland on Sept. 16, 1986. Witt, Jim Kern and Ed Correa all had one game with nine strikeouts in fewer than five innings.
The Rangers asked for a replay on Odor's error at second, claiming he lost the ball while transferring to make the throw. The original call was quickly confirmed on review.
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: Left-hander Cole Hamels pitches for the Rangers against the Cubs at 1:20 p.m. CT on Sunday as the two teams wrap up the three-game series. This will be Hamels' first start at Wrigley Field since his no-hitter for the Phillies on July 25, 2015.
Cubs: Right-hander John Lackey, who is 0-3 with a 6.26 ERA in his past six starts, pitches for the Cubs. This will be his 41st career start against the Rangers, tied for second most by an opponent.