It was a cute story, how the Dodgers embraced the newcomer who was not only from another country but was also wired unlike anyone else they knew.
The ending was nowhere near as heartwarming. Yu Darvish failed the Dodgers on the sport’s greatest stage.
Darvish did the unimaginable and inexcusable, following one historically atrocious start with another, the second coming Wednesday night in a 5-1 defeat to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the World Series. He never gave the Dodgers a chance to win the championship they waited 29 years to reclaim, giving up five runs while registering only five outs at Dodger Stadium.
The right-hander looked devastated when he entered a postgame news conference. His eyes were watery. His face was red.
Darvish gathered himself and spoke of how he wanted to repay the Dodgers for an enormous debt he felt he owed them.
“They gave me a lot,” he said in Japanese. “I’ve had some painful ones in the past. To be honest, since coming to the major leagues, my passion toward baseball had started to decrease. I was really concerned about that, especially in the last three years.”
“They gave me goals,” he said of the Dodgers. “They gave me the goal of not wanting to lose until the end. Then my goal became to perform well in the World Series.”
His appreciation only intensified his anguish.
“Everyone has really awful days,” he said. “When I have an awful day, what I think about is how for every awful day I’ve had, I’ve had a great day and I’ve added another wonderful person to my life. When I think like that, it’s easier. But what I did today affected everyone on the Dodgers, so I don’t know if that’s going to work.”
Clayton Kershaw pitched four innings in relief, raising questions about why he didn’t start instead. Here’s why: Darvish is a four-time All-Star. This became a subject of conversation only because Darvish didn’t do what he was supposed to do. This wasn’t about manager Dave Roberts or the front office not to think outside of the box and bring back Kershaw on two days’ rest. This was about Darvish not showing up on baseball’s greatest stage, plain and simple.
Games like this can happen to anyone. Kershaw squandered a four-run advantage, then contributed to the Dodgers blowing a three-run lead, all in the same Game 5 loss. Only Darvish failed to show up twice in the same seven-game series. He recorded as many outs Wednesday as he did in his Game 3 debacle.
History will record his July 31 trade to the Dodgers in absolute terms. Darvish helped the Dodgers reach the World Series, winning a game in a National League division series and another in the NL Championship Series. That’s not what will be remembered. The organization’s goal wasn’t to reach the World Series. It was to win it.
You get what you pay for, right? Darvish spent the previous 51/2 seasons with the Texas Rangers, who parted with him for what felt like a minimal cost. The most prized prospect the Dodgers traded for him was Willie Calhoun, a defensive liability who didn’t figure into their long-term plans.
The Rangers probably knew something. They probably knew he was as likely to perform how he did in this World Series as he was of ever realizing his breathtaking potential. Darvish made two postseason starts for the Rangers and lost both.
The Dodgers weren’t asking of Darvish what the Rangers did. The Dodgers weren’t looking for Orel Hershiser of 1988. What they wanted was someone who could pitch five or six innings — perhaps even fewer in the postseason.
Darvish couldn’t do that. Again.
“Last time, my slider and my other breaking pitches didn’t work at all,” Darvish said. “Over the last four days, I made adjustments and was able to get them to the point where I could throw them for strikes. But I wasn’t able to get them to the point where I could dominate hitters. It’s disappointing I wasn’t able to do that in the last two games.”
Darvish gave up a leadoff double to George Springer. The next batter, Alex Bregman, hit a grounder to first baseman Cody Bellinger. Darvish ran to cover first base, but Bellinger’s throw sailed behind him, allowing Springer to score and Bregman to reach second. Bregman stole third and doubled the Astros’ lead to 2-0 on a groundout by Jose Altuve.
The two-run deficit silenced a Dodger Stadium crowd that was rocking the previous night. The Dodgers never recovered. The fans didn’t either.
With two outs in the second inning, Darvish served up a two-run home run to Springer, which increased the Astros lead to 5-0.
“My slider wasn’t sharp,” Darvish said. “Against a batter like Springer, it was difficult. In the end, with the count 3-2, [catcher Austin] Barnes called for a slider, but with the quality of my slider today, I figured the same thing would happen [as it did in the first inning], so I went with a fastball instead.”
Darvish was removed from the game, this game matching his last as the shortest start of his career.
Darvish said that he never previously thought about wanting to pitch in a World Series because it was never a dream of his when he grew up in Japan. He does now.
He will be a free agent this winter. Asked of what he would look for in his next team, he replied, “I want to pitch again in the World Series. An organization that has a chance to make that happen would be best.”
“I would like to return here with the Dodgers,” he said.
Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez