Upon signing a six-year, $126 million contract with the Chicago Cubs in February 2018, Yu Darvish immediately looked at the schedule to identify when he would face the Los Angeles Dodgers. He additionally informed Dave Roberts his ‘main goal’ was to defeat his former team.
That opportunity never came last season, as Darvish made eight starts before being shut down due to elbow trouble. He threw a bullpen session when the Cubs visited Dodger Stadium, but it didn’t produce a positive outcome.
Darvish referred to that as the ‘worst day of his life’ and was hoping to erase some personal demons by facing the Dodgers on Saturday. The 32-year-old went out and allowed just one run, two hits and finished with 10 strikeouts over seven innings.
Following the Cubs’ comeback win, Darvish admitted to feeling as though he cleared a mental hurdle, according to Beth Harris of the Associated Press:
“I had a bad couple start in the last few games with the Dodgers, so this was really important in my life,” Darvish said. “I think now I can move forward. I pitched good here.”
While fans predictably showered Darvish with boos during lineup introductions and for each of his at-bats, the vitriol didn’t meet his expectations:
“I thought they’d boo me more,” he said. “In my mind, I had appreciation for the Dodgers. When I was there, the three months, they treated me good and my family.”
Saturday’s game not only was Darvish’s first start facing the Dodgers after leaving the club in free agency, but also marked his return to Dodger Stadium for the first time since taking the mound in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series.
He was acquired by the Dodgers at the non-waiver trade deadline that year with an eye on helping the team capture their first championship in 29 years. Darvish was inconsistent after the trade but stellar in starts during the National League Division Series and Championship Series.
But he then faltered in two World Series starts, recording just five outs in both Games 3 and 7 and allowing a combined eight earned runs in those outings, tarnishing any memory of his time with the Dodgers.