Tyler Chatwood now has as many quality starts in 2019 as Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish combined.
The Cubs opted to give Chatwood a spot start Sunday against the Diamondbacks and the 29-year-old right-hander responded with a masterful performance, tossing 6 shutout innings in the Cubs' 2-1 walk-off win. He allowed only 2 singles and walked a pair, but also induced a double play after each free pass.
Manager Joe Maddon said he thought Chatwood may be able to get up to 75 or 80 pitches, but he didn't even need that many, tossing 71 pitches through 6 frames. He was still pumping 96 mph with his fastball in the last inning in his longest outing since April 29, 2018.
"It's all about Chatwood today," Maddon said. "That was pretty spectacular. The command, the stuff, the ease with which he was throwing it. That was pretty outstanding. That's what we thought in the beginning [of his Cubs tenure] — we've talked about it a lot.
"As he gains feel for what he's doing, he's capable of that. That's not a fluke. He's capable of doing that kind of stuff. It's a nice first step for him, but it was really fun and interesting to watch."
Chatwood talked all throughout spring about the hard work he put into the offseason to clean up his mechanics and fight his way back after walking 95 batters in 103.2 innings a season ago.
"I feel like I'm back and my stuff's back and I'm commanding the ball like I know I can," Chatwood said.
Chatwood threw the first pitch of the game to the backstop and proceeded to walk the leadoff guy on four pitches, but he said that was due to being too amped up after going nearly two weeks in between appearances and eight months in between starts.
"I don't think I missed a spot in my warm-up and then throw four balls right away. Keep you guys on edge a little bit," joked Chatwood, who smiled and laughed with ease after his big outing.
He settled in after that leadoff walk, erasing the free pass with a quick double play ball and then throwing first-pitch strikes to 12 of the final 19 batters he faced.
That's exactly the type of aggressiveness the Cubs wanted to see from him.
"He's got unique Chatwood-type mechanics," pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said before Sunday's game. "It's about simplifying things for him — trying to give him 1 or 2 things to focus on and really solidify what he wants to do. And it's about being aggressive in the strike zone, being aggressive attacking.
"When you try to feel for the strike zone and you try to work your pitches around it, a lot of times, mechanically things go wrong. So it's about letting him be aggressive, letting him be himself and attacking, using all his weapons. Mechanically, though, the big thing is just simplifying things and really giving him a good, strong foundation to pitch off of and drive off it."
The Cubs won't keep Chatwood in the rotation with Jon Lester on the verge of returning from his hamstring injury, but the right-hander certainly did all he could to keep his hat in the ring and this outing could be huge for his confidence moving forward.
"What a performance," David Bote told Kelly Crull on the field after getting the walk-off hit. "I know that felt good for him. He's the best teammate in the clubhouse, He works his butt off every day and I love to see him do well like that."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.