HE FITS RIGHT IN
Dominant start has a World Series ring to it
NEW YORK — Can’t we skip the next two months? Can’t the postseason start, like, now?
Because if you watched Yu Darvish dominate the New York Mets on Friday night in his first start for the Dodgers, how could you not think ahead to October?
It wasn’t only the sight of Darvish doing pretty much whatever he wanted as he limited the Mets to three hits over seven scoreless innings. It was the idea of how his arsenal would play in a five- or seven-game series.
Imagine a recovered Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, his fastball, slider and curveball from the left side, followed by Darvish in Game 2, with an even more powerful fastball and a wider variety of breaking pitches from the right.
Oh, and if that’s not uncomfortable enough for opposing hitters, there’s left-handed contortionist Alex Wood in Game 3, appearing to deliver pitches from behind his head.
Manager Dave Roberts has warned his team against looking ahead, but even he couldn’t prevent his mind from thinking the 6-0 victory resembled the future.
“You don’t want to say playoff atmosphere, but …” Roberts said.
Darvish’s 10-strikeout performance served as early validation of the front office’s decision to acquire the Japanese right-hander from the Texas Rangers in exchange for three prospects. Not as if that required any kind of genius. Even the passionate but simpleminded fans who make calls to postgame radio programs knew this was the right move to make.
Listening to Roberts catalog the pitches Darvish threw at Citi Field explained why. “The slider … the change … the cutter … the two-seam, four-seam …” Roberts said.
Catcher Yasmani Grandal was delighted to have so many weapons at his disposal, saying, “You have movement coming from top to bottom, side to side.”
The unpredictability for hitters went beyond the types of pitches.
“He knows when to put on and take off [velocity],” Grandal said. “You saw fastballs from 90 mph to 97 mph. It’s pretty hard for you to get good solid contact.”
Grandal smiled when asked what it would be like for a hitter to face Kershaw one day and Darvish the next.
“You better not strike out three times the first game,” Grandal said.
The implication: You could strike out three more times in the second.
Kershaw remains on the disabled list with a back injury, but if he returns as expected, he and Darvish could be this year’s version of the Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling tandem that made the Arizona Diamondbacks the World Series champions in 2001.
Davish’s maiden start was confirmation of the widespread suspicions his statistics didn’t accurately portray the caliber of pitcher he is. He entered the game with a 6-9 record, his last victory coming in midJune.
But his won-loss mark was more of a measure of the Rangers’ offensive impotence, as the team scored only eight runs in his last eight starts while he was still in the game.
With Chris Taylor blasting a solo home run in the first inning Friday and Yasiel Puig doubling the advantage in the second, Darvish said, in Japanese, he recalled thinking, “Huh, they score this easily.”
He also found comfort in Grandal’s reputed pitchframing ability.
“Grandal was able to turn some balls into strikes, so I able to really let go of the baseball, thinking I just had to throw it close to the zone,” Darvish said.
The pressure of October can’t be replicated in the regular season, but, as Roberts said, the atmosphere at Citi Field was as close as it will get. Darvish acknowledged he was anxious Friday night and not only because he was making his first start for a new team.
“The last time I pitched, I gave up 10 runs,” he said, referring to his last start with the Rangers, which inflated his ERA from 3.44 to 4.01. He said he asked himself, “Wouldn’t I be in trouble if I do that again?”
He didn’t. He passed his first test of nerves.
When Darvish was finishing taking questions at a postgame news conference, he asked the reporters to deliver a message to Mets starter Jacob deGrom on his behalf.
“DeGrom got a hit off me and stole a base,” he said. “And when I struck out in my first at-bat, I hurt my thumb.”
Darvish raised his nonpitching hand, showing his left thumb was taped.
“Please tell him I will get my revenge,” he joked.
Revenge will have to wait.
DeGrom won’t be pitching in October. Darvish will be.
YU DARVISH IS GREETED in the dugout by fellow Dodgers starter Alex Wood after the sixth inning. Darvish made a great first impression with his new team with 10 strikeouts in seven innings, giving up three hits and walking only one against the Mets.
SHORTSTOP Corey Seager (5) and second baseman Chase Utley nearly collide while chasing a pop f ly.
YU DARVISH has command of several pitches, manager Dave Roberts said, making him tough to hit.