Yu Darvish bounces off a strong start to beat Braves
SAN DIEGO – Yu Darvish did not allow for a success in his first start in Arizona on opening day. He conceded nine races in his second start last Tuesday in San Francisco.
Somewhere between these two extremes lies the real Yu Darvish. And before Darvish took on the Braves at Sunday Night Baseball, Padres manager Bob Melvin said, “I tend to think he’s a lot more like the former.”
Sure enough, a few hours later, Darvish was slashing the reigning champions in a tense 2-1 win by the Padres that earned him a split of their four-game set against Atlanta. Darvish was excellent over 6 innings and 2/3, allowing only one run over four strokes. He hit eight and didn’t allow a walk.
“You never forget the latest outing,” said Darvish. “It was still in my mind. But I actually had a good bullpen before starting today. I was thinking if I can get him to the mound, I should be fine. “
This was the version of Darvish that the Padres decided deserved to sit on top of their rotating charge. And, frankly, this was the version of Darvish that the Fathers needed. Because, lately, they haven’t scored much.
For the third straight game, the San Diego offense picked up just two points, both of which came in the second inning. They scored the first when Austin Nola was hit from a field with the bases loaded and the second when Jake Cronenworth pulled out what could have been an end-inning double play.
The Padres had runners at the base all night, working eight walks. But they ended up 0 out of 9 with men in scoring position and blocked 10 unsightly runners.
“We just have to keep putting together some good bats, getting the kids to base,” Nola said. “I know the blow will come.”
While they wait for their bats to come to life, the launch and defense of the Padres have resisted. Even with Darvish’s short start in San Francisco and a three-inning start from rescuer Nabil Crismatt, the Padres’ starting pitchers combined for 58 innings and 1/3, the highest in the Majors.
Meanwhile, they are playing an extraordinarily clean defense behind those pitchers. The Padres are one of two baseball teams this season that have not yet made a mistake. The Royals, the only other team with no mistakes, have played three fewer games.
“It was great, especially in games like that,” Melvin said. “In close matches, a lot has to do with defense. And we had a really good time again tonight – and in the right places too. The coaches have guys who play in the right places ”.
So, for the Padres it was all about throwing and defending. It’s worth noting that those aren’t necessarily two separate aspects of the game. In Darvish’s eyes, they are intertwined. When a team plays on clean defense, its pitchers are not forced to throw extra pitches. When a team plays clean defense, there is much less stress on their pitching staff.
“You can feel that they are very focused, that the focus is there,” Darvish said. “I feed on that, that good energy.”
Darvish conceded a solo homer to Marcell Ozuna in seventh, and came out with two outs and a man on second base. Steven Wilson needed a pitch to register the final elimination, and Luis García pitched a clear eighth before Taylor Rogers nailed the ninth for the save. He is the first Padres pitcher to register a save in each of his first four appearances with the club.
But the night belonged to Darvish, who quickly made it clear that his trip to San Francisco was behind him. He knocked out four of the first five hitters he faced and with that fourth strikeout, he became the fastest pitcher, in terms of innings, to hit 1,600 K.
Later, Melvin was reminded that a number of those strikeouts have occurred against his A’s over the past decade, when Darvish was pitching for Texas.
“He’s always been good – I’m happy to be on the same team now,” said Melvin. “You know it will always be a battle. The other night was really an anomaly. It doesn’t happen very often in his career. Give it a couple of runs, many times that’s all it’ll take.
On Sunday evening, the Padres gave Darvish a couple of runs. Indeed, this was enough.