Dom­i­nant start has a World Se­ries ring to it

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - DY­LAN HER­NAN­DEZ

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.

Pho­to­graphs by Julie Ja­cob­son As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

Ja­son Szenes Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

YU DARVISH has com­mand of sev­eral pitches, man­ager Dave Roberts said, mak­ing him tough to hit.

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