LOS ANGELES -- The day after a brief and forgettable Game 3 start on Friday, Dodgers right-hander Yu Darvish found himself in the center of a dugout huddle, encircled by his teammates. "We're going to get this one for you!" they chanted.
The Dodgers did with a 6-2 victory in Game 4 on Saturday, and now Darvish can match the gesture by helping get one for them. Tapped as the starter for tonight's Game 7 at Dodger Stadium, Darvish will not only try to atone for his abbreviated World Series debut, but also turn the culmination of an entertaining Fall Classic into a coronation for the Dodgers.
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"I can't pay that much attention to what happened last time," Darvish said through an interpreter. "[I'll] just focus on [Wednesday's] outing and have a good game."
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Darvish will be making the first Game 7 start by a Dodgers pitcher since Sandy Koufax clinched the franchise's 1965 championship with a three-hit shutout against the Twins. Darvish will also be the first Japanese-born pitcher to start Game 7 of the World Series.
The last time Darvish pitched a winner-take-all-game was eight years ago at Dodger Stadium in the final of the World Baseball Classic, when he covered the last two innings in a save for Team Japan.
"We have a lot of faith in Yu," Clayton Kershaw said after the Dodgers' 3-1 victory in Game 6 on Tuesday. "He's pitched great for us. I know he's ready to go."
So, too, will be Kershaw. Circumstances will dictate how deep manager Dave Roberts pushes Darvish, but with a robust bullpen (one that will include Kershaw and Alex Wood) ready, there will be plenty of available coverage.
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Nevertheless, the Dodgers hope to ride Darvish deeper than they did on Friday, when the Astros torpedoed what had been the biggest start of his career. Darvish allowed more hits (six) than he recorded outs (five).
Los Angeles never recovered from a four-run hole that night, which ended with Darvish also having to field questions about an inappropriate gesture Yuli Gurriel made toward him during the game. Seeing his teammates rally around him a day later helped Darvish to move on.
"It meant a lot to him for players to come out and say that," Roberts said. "And just know that we have all the confidence in him for [Game 7]. I know he's looking to redeem himself, and felt that obviously he wasn't himself. So it's our job to give him that opportunity."
Darvish said before Game 6 that Gurriel has asked to meet with him so that he could apologize, but Darvish told him, "Hey, you don't have to do that, because you made a comment, and, like, I'm not that mad."
Game 6 starter Rich Hill made sure the Dodger faithful had the opportunity to express their opinion, taking his time to start the second inning with Gurriel in the box to lead off the innings. The boos, predicatably rained down on Gurriel as he waited.
"That's a subject that's disheartening," Hill said. "I think, rightfully so, the fans spoke out and understood what was going on. I gave them their time to voice their opinion."
One of the biggest questions leading into Darvish's second start against the Astros is how much he'll be able to rely on the slider. A pitch that accounted for nearly 25 percent of those that Darvish threw during the regular season was almost entirely ineffective for him in Game 3.
The biggest issue was location, as Darvish routinely left his slider floating high and wide of the zone to his arm side. Darvish generated one swing-and-miss on the 14 sliders he threw. That tied for the fewest swing-and-misses on the pitch in any of Darvish's 34 starts this year.
In his other two starts this postseason, Darvish scattered two runs on eight hits over 11 1/3 innings. This will be his first start at Dodger Stadium in more than five weeks and could also be the last as a member of the home team.
On Monday, Darvish will officially be a free agent. Right now, his only concern is some unfinished business.
"When I get off the mound, I just want the team to have a chance to win," Darvish said. "That's my goal."