Ner­vous at start, Darvish blanks Mets for seven

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Andy McCul­lough

NEW YORK — In the af­ter­noon be­fore his first start as a Dodger, a 6-0 dis­man­tling of the New York Mets, Yu Darvish re­ceived an in­doc­tri­na­tion in the method­ol­ogy of base­ball’s best team.

At the team ho­tel in Man­hat­tan, Darvish met with gen­eral man­ager Farhan Zaidi, who ad­vised him on how to at­tack that night’s hit­ters. Zaidi opened a lap­top and re­vealed how Darvish could op­ti­mize his arse­nal, al­ter­ing the lo­ca­tions and pitch se­quences he uti­lized dur­ing five sea­sons with Texas.

“I was like, ‘Is that re­ally go­ing to work?’ ” Darvish said through his in­ter­preter, Hideaki Sato. “But it worked. I re­ally put the trust in him.”

The union be­tween Darvish and the

Dodgers re­quires faith. The Dodgers (77-32) be­lieved Darvish was worth the three prospects needed to pry him from the Rangers. And Darvish will need to em­brace the sug­ges­tions of his new em­ploy­ers. In their first game to­gether, both par­ties lived up to the hype.

“I was re­ally wor­ried, be­cause the Dodgers have such great pitch­ers,” Darvish said. “I didn’t want to pitch bad in the first out­ing.”

He did not. De­spite resid­ual jit­ters from his last out­ing as a Ranger, Darvish si­lenced the Mets for seven in­nings and piled up 10 strike­outs. His new team­mates taxed Mets starter Ja­cob deGrom and bul­lied the re­liev­ers who re­placed him. Buoyed by home runs from Chris Tay­lor, Yasiel Puig and Chase Ut­ley, Darvish led from the mo­ment he stepped on the field.

“It’s one start,” man­ager Dave Roberts said. “But he did ev­ery­thing we hoped he would do.”

A fes­ti­val at­mos­phere greeted the Dodgers when they ar­rived at Citi Field on Fri­day. Sandy Ko­ufax vis­ited the club­house. Todd Boehly, a mem­ber of the own­er­ship group, made an ap­pear­ance. Play­ers min­gled on the field with Alex Ro­driguez, who will broad­cast Satur­day’s game for Fox.

Around 5 p.m., Roberts went to talk to Darvish. He found his new pitcher in a ca­sual mood, ca­pa­ble of con­duct­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with­out sound­ing dis­tracted about his evening’s task.

But, Darvish would ad­mit later, he was un­sure about what would come next. On July 26, Mi­ami roasted Darvish for 10 runs. He fin­ished July with a 7.20 earned-run av­er­age in five starts. There were whis­pers about him tip­ping pitches and feel­ing un­com­fort­able with trade ru­mors.

Darvish had not an­swered those ques­tions when Fri­day be­gan. He har­bored some nerves about join­ing a new team, he ad­mit­ted. But he also fret­ted about his own abil­ity.

“I gave up 10 runs in the last out­ing,” Darvish said. “So to come back from that, I was a lit­tle con­cerned about that.”

The be­gin­ning did not in­spire con­fi­dence. The first pitch Darvish threw as a Dodger was a 94-mph fast­ball. Mets out­fielder Michael Con­forto smacked it into right field for a sin­gle.

Af­ter strik­ing out Mets third base­man As­drubal Cabr­era with a curve­ball, Darvish is­sued a six-pitch walk to first base­man Jay Bruce. Darvish es­caped with loud con­tact. Yoe­nis Ce­s­pedes lined out to left and Darvish snared a line drive by Cur­tis Gran­der­son for the third out.

“It was about min­i­miz­ing the dam­age af­ter the first hit,” catcher Yas­mani Gran­dal said. “We were able to do that.”

Darvish ben­e­fited from his new of­fense’s abun­dance of tal­ent. Tay­lor led the game off with a solo shot. An in­ning later, Puig wal­loped a homer into left-cen­ter field, set­ting a new ca­reer high with 20 in a sea­son. Tay­lor led off the fifth with a sin­gle and came around to score.

As the of­fense chugged along, Darvish set­tled into a groove. He struck out two in the sec­ond. He worked around a lead­off sin­gle and stolen base by DeGrom to punch out two more with a pair of 95-mph fast­balls in the third. He spot­ted an­other 95-mph fast­ball at the knees to freeze Gran­der­son for a strike­out in the fourth.

“He was lights out,” Gran­dal said.

Up three runs, Darvish did not panic when Mets rookie Amed Rosario led off the bot­tom of the fifth with a sin­gle. Darvish gave up an­other stolen base, but he re­tired the next two bat­ters. Con­forto came up with two outs.

Here, the Dodgers saw the dy­namism of Darvish’s arse­nal. Con­forto fouled off a slider. He swung through a curve­ball. With the count at 1-2, Darvish fired a 94-mph fast­ball. The base­ball veered up and away. Con­forto could not hold back. He failed to check his swing and be­came Darvish’s sev­enth strike­out.

“His stuff looked elec­tric,” Ut­ley said.

Any ten­sion evap­o­rated in the sixth. DeGrom had thrown 99 pitches, and did not re­turn af­ter the fifth. The Dodgers took ad­van­tage of left-handed re­liever Josh Smoker. Af­ter a walk by Gran­dal, Ut­ley launched a hang­ing split­ter into the sec­ond deck of the right-field seats, qui­et­ing the Mets fans still grous­ing about his his­tory of tor­tur­ing their fran­chise.

Darvish re­tired the side with five pitches in the sixth. In his fi­nal in­ning, he over­whelmed his op­po­nents. Gran­der­son could not catch up to a 92-mph fast­ball. When sec­ond base­man Neil Walker chased a 2-2 curve­ball, he con­nected only with air. The in­ning ended when Rosario swung through a slide to end a stir­ring de­but.

“It’s the first game, so you’re al­ways try­ing to get bet­ter,” Gran­dal said. “But it’s hard to say you can get any bet­ter than he was tonight.”

Julie Ja­cob­son As­so­ci­ated Press

CHRIS TAY­LOR HEADS FOR THIRD on a sin­gle by Corey Sea­ger in the fifth in­ning. Tay­lor, who led off the game with a home run, scored on a dou­ble-play grounder by Justin Turner to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead.

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