Yu Darvish overcomes ghosts of past in Padres’ win over Dodgers

The day before climbing the same hill where he experienced the worst night of his career, Yu Darvish visited the interview room at Dodger Stadium.

While a reporter was popping a question, the San Diego Padres right-hander said to no one in Japanese, “It’s a sayonara.”

Darvish’s eyes were on a TV mounted on the wall to his right, showing Yordan Álvarez circling bases and the Houston Astros celebrating their walk-off win over the Seattle Mariners.

The ghosts of Darvish’s past were everywhere.

Darvish has never downplayed his story here. He has acknowledged how much the Dodgers’ loss in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series to the mark-stealing Astros affected him, how the recovery from that disappointment has empowered him to be the kind of competitor worth the pitching -Lead a team of a team with championship ambitions.

Looking ahead to his start the next day, Darvish said, “I think I’ll be able to show a different image of myself.”

His intuition was correct.

Wednesday night, Darvish defeated his former team in Game 2 of their National League Division Series, leading the Padres to a 5-3 win that leveled the best-of-five series 1-1.

He didn’t have his best games. He gave up solo home runs in each of the first three innings. He only went through five innings that were taken out in the sixth with runners on the corners and no outs.

None of that mattered to him.

When asked about a missed strike-three call before Max Muncy’s home run in the second inning, Darvish replied in English, “I thought that was a strike but we won today so who cares?”

About an hour before the game, Darvish went into midfield and fell to his knees. He thought about the last time he hosted a postseason game here and how his family was coping with his failure at the World Series.

“I have caused my family much suffering,” Darvish said in Japanese. “I wanted to be able to send my family home today with feelings of joy.”

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw jumps after giving a run-scoring double to San Diego's Manny Machado.

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw jumps after giving a run-scoring double to San Diego’s Manny Machado in the third inning Wednesday.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Darvish said he got emotional when he visited Major League Baseball’s official website, which listed him and Clayton Kershaw as the game’s starting pitchers.

“After the 2017 playoffs, Kershaw was the person who protected me and my family the most,” Darvish said. “I always thought it would be nice to face him in an important game like this. It finally happened.”

Darvish has credited Kershaw with helping him regroup after the crushing World Series experience. Kershaw had yet to win a ring and Darvish was painfully aware of how desperately he aspired to a championship. Not only did Kershaw not begrudge him his Game 7 performance, the three-time Cy Young Award winner invited him to train near their off-season homes in suburban Dallas.

If Wednesday night’s game gave Darvish a chance to reflect on his development over the past five years, it also marked Kershaw’s return to October baseball.

Kershaw missed the playoffs last year with an arm problem.

Charged with three carries and six hits, Kershaw was removed in a 3-3 tie after five arduous innings. His early exit after an equally long start by Julio Urías the day before put additional strain on the bullpen. Brusdar Graterol gave up a run in the sixth inning, Blake Treinen gave up another in the eighth and that was the game.

“I definitely had some traffic all day,” Kershaw said. “I’m sure it could have been a lot worse. I had to jump out of jams practically every inning.”

Darvish admired Kershaw’s resilience in the three months he played for the Dodgers after they took him on at the 2017 close.

“He’s doing really well on his start days,” said Darvish. “He doesn’t talk to anyone. As I watched him corner himself, I could feel his effort as he hit the ground.”

The sense of responsibility as a team’s No. 1 pitcher is something Darvish has gradually come to accept in his years since leaving the Dodgers.

He spent three years with the Chicago Cubs, who traded him to the Padres prior to last season.

In each of his two seasons with the Padres, Darvish was the team’s opening-day starter. He was also their Game 1 starter in their wildcard series against the New York Mets last weekend. He also won this game.

Now he sounded like he was preparing to do something else Kershaw is known for in the postseason: start with three days off.

When asked if he could serve relieved in a hypothetical fifth and final game of the series, Darvish replied, “I plan on serving at the end – as a starter, of course.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-10-12/yu-darvish-dodgers-padres-nlds-game-2-dodger-stadium Yu Darvish overcomes ghosts of past in Padres’ win over Dodgers

Emma Bowman

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