The Los Angeles Dodgers were well on their way to another National League West title when they acquired Yu Darvish minutes before the July 31 trade deadline during the 2017 season. Darvish was the best player available, and his acquisition very much was with an eye on the World Series.
Darvish had a modest showing and some uneven performances after joining the Dodgers, but was much more dominant come the NL Division Series and Championship Series. In starts against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs, he allowed a combined two runs and had 14 strikeouts over 11.1 innings.
However, the right-hander faltered in the World Series, including a Game 7 loss to the Houston Astros. Darvish was widely considered a rental for the Dodgers at the time of the trade, and his struggles in the Fall Classic all but cemented that.
He went on to sign a six-year, $126 million contract with the Cubs. Saturday marks Darvish’s first time facing the Dodgers since departing via free agency, and he considers the outing a significant one, per ESPN’s Jesse Rogers:
“It’s a big deal,” Darvish said Friday of his return for the first time since Game 7. “I still have a lot of friends over there, but at the same time they are the best team in the National League. I have to beat those guys.”
One reason Darvish has yet to face the Dodgers as a member of the Cubs was his 2018 season coming to an end after just eight starts. He experienced elbow trouble and it was shortly after throwing a bullpen session at Dodger Stadium that the Cubs effectively shut him down.
Thus, returning to Chavez Ravine, which is also the scene of his last loss with the Dodgers, is another opportunity for Darvish to exercise some personal demons:
“Last year when I came here, that was the worst day of my life,” Darvish said. “F—ing pain. This year I’ve been feeling good. My fastball [Friday] was maybe my best bullpen this year.”
Darvish allowed four runs and only recorded five outs in each of his two World Series starts, both of which were losses. It was asserted by the Astros that he was tipping pitches in those outings.
The Dodgers have attempted to push back on the notion Darvish is responsible for the franchise failing to win their first World Series since 1988, but the 32-year-old largely remains attached to the perception and figures to be in for a rude welcoming at Dodger Stadium.