Perhaps as an unintended omen, Sandy Koufax took a walk through the Dodgers’ clubhouse at Citi Field Friday night, before the Dodgers sent their new toy, Yu Darvish, out to face the Mets. But maybe the Dodgers didn’t need a Hall of Fame omen for Darvish to manhandle what’s left of this year’s Mets.
About the only thing anyone disagreed upon after Darvish shut the Mets out with seven scoreless en route a 6-0 win was whether or not Darvish finished his night’s work by wrapping Dodger manager Dave Roberts in a big bear hug.
“I enjoyed the show,” Roberts said after the game. “I got a big hug from Yu after his outing. He’s already blending in with the other players and you can just see the joy in him.”
“I thought we just shook hands,” said Darvish before a pause pregnant enough to have produced triplets. “But maybe I gave him a hug.”
What nobody disputed is that Darvish gave the Mets an overdose of what made him so special a find in the first place for the Rangers who dealt him to the Dodgers at last week’s non-waiver trade deadline. He struck out ten Mets, allowed them only three hits, and walked only one of them. It was as though he plopped his sailing fastball and jiggling curve ball into a Mixmaster and cranked it to whipped potatoes speed.
The Mets have been so banged up by the disabled list and by veterans fighting either the end of the line or swollen inconsistencies that you could have accused Darvish of breaking the slump off which he was dealt the easy way. There’s nothing like getting to add insult to injuries to make a pitcher with a 5.81 ERA over his previous eight starts, the eighth of which was a ferocious ten-run beating from the Marlins, to feel loved again.
Darvish was so crestfallen after that Miami mauling that his farewell message to Rangers fans included an apology, his “biggest regret,” that his final start in Rangers silks was a massacre. About the only thing he got anywhere near apologising for Friday night was an admitted nervousness before starting the game.
Early in the going Darvish didn’t look happy with what was happening. He worked methodically but shook his head a few times over sliders he didn’t think were consummated properly enough for his taste.
The Mets gave him a run for his money in the early innings, particularly the third, when their starter Jacob deGrom—their most effective starting pitcher on the season until losing his second straight Friday night following an eight-start winning streak—opened with a line single over a shift-empty third base that was soft enough to be snuggled.
One out later, Asdrubal Cabrera, who might yet be a waiver trade candidate, wrestled Darvish for ten pitches during which deGrom somewhat daringly stole second, before Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal—realising his man wasn’t exactly in love with his slider just yet this night—steered him to the four-seam fastball. Cabrera went down swinging harder than a jazz band but to a strikeout, not a crowd of dancers on the floor.
Darvish also got a rude continuing hello in the fifth from Amed Rosario, the Mets’ uber-prospect at shortstop, when Rosario tore a 3-1 fastball to right for a single and, one out later, stole second while Brandon Nimmo looked at ball two. Rudeness gets you only so far, though, and Darvish zipped Michael Conforto—who’d collect two of the Mets’ four hits on the night—with a high fastball.
deGrom’s evening began even more rudely when Chris Taylor turned a game-opening 0-2 deficit into an eight-pitch, three-foul, full count before hitting the ninth pitch over the left center field wall. By comparison, Yasiel Puig in the second was the essence of courtly gentlemanliness, looking at strike one to open before sending one over the center field wall.
“I’ve got to be better in the first inning,” deGrom lamented after the game. “My stuff was good tonight. I wasn’t able to locate it.” Unfortunately, Taylor and Puig were, putting the Mets into the early 2-0 deficit.
Taylor also scored while Justin Turner was dialing Area Code 5-6-3 in the fifth. And Chase Utley, always a Met fan’s favourite (“I know Chase loves playing here,” Roberts said with only a trace of sarcasm), abused deGrom’s relief Josh Smoker with one out in the sixth, after Grandal fought off an 0-2 start to walk on four straight balls, when he hammered a 2-1 service into the right field bleachers.
How Darvish escaped the Mets first was a piece of work to behold despite his early wrestling. Conforto opened with a base hit and Jay Bruce walked an out later, but after Yoenis Cespedes flied out Curtis Granderson drilled a liner right back up the pipe . . . and right into Darvish, who snapped his glove around it for the side as though he was merely flicking a pesky fly to one side.
“He throws anything at any time,” Bruce said, “and he was very good tonight.” He was more than very good on a night the Mets couldn’t afford to be any kind of bad, and it meant the Mets losing five of six.
No matter. The Mets’ season ended for all intent and purpose at or around the non-waiver trade deadline, when they unloaded Lucas Duda to Tampa Bay and Addison Reed to Boston for prospects most of whom carried bullpen tickets, and began contemplating the waiver-trade period to come. They’re looking at 2018 now. The high-flying, hard-swinging Dodgers are looking at a lot sooner than that. October, to be specific.
Darvish brings them gilt-edged insurance for that. He and they didn’t really need Koufax in the house to, ahem, insure it, but it was nice of Koufax to be there, anyway.