There was laughter and lightness in the Dodgers’ clubhouse. There were players enjoying a relatively easy victory, and there was Clayton Kershaw boisterously providing quotes to the reporters waiting outside the office of Manager Dave Roberts.
“Yu pitched great tonight,” Kershaw said.
Kershaw proceeded to the dining room, and the reporters herded into the manager’s office, but the best pitcher on the planet had distilled the essence of the game into four words.
Yu Darvish is not here for September. He is here for October, the grand prize of the July trade deadline, the grand arm acquired for a postseason run intended to end with the Dodgers’ first World Series in 29 years.
Game 1 goes to Kershaw, of course.
Game 2 is supposed to go to Darvish, but his September had not been auspicious. So the Dodgers breathed an ample sigh of relief Wednesday, when Darvish worked seven shutout innings in a 4-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
The Dodgers had six hits, all for extra bases. Cody Bellinger homered, tripled and drove in three runs. The pitching tag team — Darvish to Brandon Morrow to rookie Walker Buehler — might represent the best arms they can throw without using Kershaw or Kenley Jansen.
The Giants got a run and two hits — neither hit with authority — off Buehler in the ninth. The Dodgers had Jansen warming up and could have brought him in for the save. But, as they prepare for October, they wanted to see how Buehler reacted to adversity.
He struck out Denard Span for the final out.
“I thought he composed himself really well,” Roberts said.
Darvish composed himself well too, with a revitalized sinker and curve to offset fair fastball command. In his seven innings Wednesday, Darvish gave up no runs and three hits, all singles. He faced one batter over the minimum, in part because the Giants ran themselves into two double plays. He walked none, struck out five and got seven outs on ground balls.
In his previous 71/3 innings, Darvish had given up 10 runs and 13 hits. He said he was not worried about persuading the Dodgers to keep him in their postseason rotation.
“The Dodgers got me for that situation,” he said through an interpreter.
He said he had simplified his approach by focusing on one element of his pitching, but he would not say what it was. A secret, he said.
“I have lots of secrets,” he said. “I usually have five secrets a day.”
The Dodgers, for so long the team assumed to be the one that would finish with the best record in the major leagues, lead the Cleveland Indians by four games for that distinction. To the winner goes home-field advantage in the postseason.
The Dodgers, intent on extending their winning streak to two games after losing 11 in a row, struck quickly. With two out in the first inning, Bellinger tripled home Corey Seager, who had been hit by a pitch.
Next up: Logan Forsythe, who is batting .303 against left-handers and .190 against right-handers. On the mound: Matt Moore, a left-hander with a 5.39 earned-run average. No major league pitcher has thrown as many innings with a higher ERA.
Forsythe doubled home Bellinger, and the Dodgers had a 2-0 lead five batters into the game.
In the bottom of the first, the Giants ran into a 1-6-5-4 double play. In the second, they let a pop fly drop, and their third baseman threw one ball away and dropped another. In the fourth, their catcher could not catch a third strike.
But the Dodgers did not score again until the fifth inning, when Bellinger homered.
Bellinger, who spotted the rest of the league three weeks, ranks second in the NL with 37 home runs. He has driven in 86 runs. The NL rookie record for home runs is 38, by Wally Berger and Frank Robinson.
Bellinger’s home run was quite a sight, and it made quite a sound too. The ball traveled an estimated 441 feet and splashed into McCovey Cove, the water behind the right-field bleachers.
“You always see it when you grow up watching Barry Bonds do it,” Bellinger said. “To actually do it was pretty cool.”