Darvish contributes on mound -- and at plate

Dodgers pitcher takes unlikely bases-loaded walk in Game 3

October 18th, 2017

CHICAGO -- The Dodgers acquired precisely for October nights like these. Even then, they probably weren't expecting him to chip in at the plate.

The veteran right-hander was excellent on the mound in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World, allowing one run over 6 1/3 innings, as the Dodgers moved within one win of the World Series with a 6-1 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night. But Darvish has been excellent for the better part of the past month, so that didn't qualify as much of a surprise.

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This certainly did: Dodgers manager Dave Roberts opted to let Darvish hit with two outs and the bases loaded the sixth inning in one of the game's critical moments. And Darvish -- a career .129/.156/.258 hitter -- never had to take the bat off his shoulder.

Cubs reliever threw four straight balls. Darvish flipped his bat demonstratively toward the first-base dugout, then trotted to first, giving the Dodgers a 4-1 lead. In the process, he equaled his walk and RBI totals from five regular seasons in the Major Leagues.

"Facing a guy who throws 95, 96 with a cutter, he's got something special going," Darvish said through an interpreter. "I didn't think I had a chance to hit. So I just wanted to try to do something, draw a walk or maybe get hit by pitch. Anything just to score runs."

Said fellow right-hander : "He did an awesome job of making the pitcher uncomfortable. He was hanging so far over the plate, [Edwards] is probably thinking, 'What's this guy thinking?' He's sticking his elbow out far and wiggling his bat and doing the Little League thing. Whatever works. That got us pumped up to see him really commit to trying to draw a walk, doing whatever it took."

Darvish became just the seventh pitcher to draw a bases-loaded walk in the postseason -- and the first since Philadelphia's Larry Christenson in the 1977 NLCS against Los Angeles.

Letting Darvish bat seemed like an unconventional decision from Roberts, whose club has thrived this postseason by going to its bullpen early. Afterward, the Dodgers' manager acknowledged that the offense was an added bonus, and that his decision centered on using Darvish for at least one more inning.

"Obviously, it validates and makes you feel better about it," Roberts said. "But you still have to go into that at-bat expecting not to come away with a run right there. The story of the night, obviously, is Yu Darvish."

On the mound, Darvish's success was a bit more conventional. He used a dominant mix of fastball/cutter/slider to strike out seven in the first LCS start of his career. Darvish allowed a home run to in the first, but he didn't allow an extra-base hit the rest of the night.

"He just missed his spot on Schwarber," Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "He made a mistake, but he made a nice adjustment from there and really just pitched his game after that. It was very special."

Darvish, who pitched the clinching Game 3 of the NL Division Series at Arizona, has allowed two earned runs over two postseason starts. His success is a tangible reward for the wheeling and dealing by the Dodgers' front office on July 31. With mere minutes remaining until the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Los Angeles shipped three of its top prospects to Texas in exchange for Darvish.

Darvish made nine regular-season starts for the Dodgers. He started slow and finished strong. None of it really mattered. The Dodgers had secured their place atop the NL West long before he arrived.

The success of the Darvish trade was going to be judged on his results in the postseason. So far, so good.

"You're talking about trying to win 11 games in October," Roberts said. "You need that front-end pitching. That start against Arizona and tonight, this is why you trade for guys like that."

The clutch RBI? The Dodgers will take that, too.