Darvish no stranger to Turner-like dramatic finishes

You would think that few professional baseball players have ever experienced what the Dodgers did on Sunday night when Justin Turner hit his Kirk Gibson-esque game-winning walk-off three run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Dodgers the 4-1 win and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series. Even Turner himself told reporters that he had never hit a walk-off home run in his career – postseason or otherwise.

Yet when asked if he had ever experienced anything like that in his 12-year professional career – seven in the Nippon Professional Baseball League and five in the MLB – Dodgers right-hander Yu Darvish‘s answer was somewhat of a surprise, if not a bit stoic.

“There’ve been times like, when I was in Japan, when I have like probably two walk-off[s] and that was a big game and very similar to that,” Darvish said, through an interpreter. “And then, you know, you’ve been in playoffs and then we play the game like that, and it was special.”

When he first arrived in LA, Darvish struggled a bit and was susceptible to giving up the long ball. But after making some mechanical adjustments, he has become a far better pitcher which, in turn, has increased his confidence considerably – especially on the road. (Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

The 31-year-old Habikino, Japan native has indeed been in some big games similar to Sunday night’s NLCS walk-off win; much bigger, in fact.

In only his second season with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham fighters, Darvish quickly became the team’s ace under (then) Ham Fighters manager Trey Hillman (yes, that Trey Hillman), and led his team to the 2006 Japan Series (the equivalent of MLB’s League Championship Series) and the Asia Championship (the equivalent of MLB’s World Series).

The Ham Fighters would return to the Japan Series in 2007 but eventually fell to the Chunichi Dragons, this in spite of a remarkable season by Darvish, during which he won back-to-back 14-strikeout complete games.

But like many of Japan’s best players, Darvish was lured to the MLB in 2012 after the Texas Rangers posted a winning bid of $51,703,411 to the Ham Fighters. In his four plus seasons with the Rangers, the 6′-5″ / 220-pound hard-throwing right-hander achieved a 52-39 record with a 3.42.

Since being traded to the Dodgers at the July 31, 2017 trade deadline (with $3,726,775 remaining on his six-year / $56 million contract with the Rangers that expires at the conclusion of this season), Darvish went 4-3 with a respectable 3.44 ERA in his nine regular season starts with the Dodgers. Unfortunately, he also gave up seven home runs in those nine starts.

But after making some mechanical changes to his delivery, Darvish was lights out during his final three regular season starts, allowing only one earned run in 19.1 innings pitched. He was also nothing short of brilliant in game-3 of the National League Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on October 9 at Chase Field, in which he allowed only one run on two hits (including a solo home run by Dbacks second baseman Daniel Descalso), while striking out seven and walking none in his 5.0 innings of work.

“[My trust in Darvish] has grown considerably and I think that it starts with the confidence that he has in himself and his ability to execute a pitch or throw a strike when he needs to,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I think that early on, coming over here (to LA), things sped up on him a little bit, he was out of whack mechanically.

“But I think right now – simplifying things and being able to repeat the delivery – I think that he’s gained a lot of confidence, and I think, in turn, we feel the same about him.”

Not a bad endorsement from the guy holding all of the cards of a team that is now just six wins away from their first World Series title in 29 years.

Go Dodgers!

 

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5 Responses to “Darvish no stranger to Turner-like dramatic finishes”

  1. oldbrooklynfan says:

    Up 2-0, what we need now is a good performance from Darvish. WOW wouldn’t that be something?

  2. CruzinBlue says:

    Truly, one of your best pitching photos, Ron.

    Go Darvish!!
    Go Dodgers!!

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Shot that from the press box at Petco. Best PB I’ve ever been in. A lot closer to the action and, as you noted, a great camera angle.

  3. Respect the Rivalry says:

    Capt. Clutch starting instead of Grandy.

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