Yu Darvish pitched seven dazzling innings in his seventh consecutive win, and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1 on Friday night in the opener of a big five-game series.
Led by Darvish and Willson Contreras, Chicago won for the fourth time in five games and strengthened its grip on the top spot in the NL Central. St. Louis dropped into a virtual tie with Milwaukee for second, 4-1/2 games back of the Cubs.
Contreras had three hits and four RBIs, including a leadoff drive in the sixth for his fifth homer. He also had a big two-run single on the ninth pitch of his at-bat against Jack Flaherty in the first.
Darvish (7-1) was working on a perfect game before Matt Carpenter opened the sixth with his second homer. The Japanese right-hander then retired his last six batters, striking out three more to give him 11 on the night.
The Cards and Cubs play their third doubleheader of the season on Saturday. Adam Wainwright (3-0, 2.65 ERA) and Dakota Hudson (1-2, 2.77 ERA) are scheduled to pitch for St. Louis. The Cubs are scheduled to go with Adbert Alzolay (0-0, 0.00 ERA) in Game 1, and then a bullpen day for the second game. First pitch for game one is scheduled for 4:15 this afternoon.