When the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline with seconds to spare, it sent shockwaves through the league. The Dodgers, who arguably boasted the Major’s best pitching depth, had just pulled off a blockbuster for the top available starting pitcher.
The reasoning for such a move wasn’t to aid the club during the regular season — Los Angeles held a commanding 14-game lead in the National League West at the time of the trade — acquiring an ace-caliber arm like Darvish was with a clear eye on October.
And with a win on Monday night in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, the Dodgers will sweep the Arizona Diamondbacks and advance to the NL Championship Series for the second consecutive year.
Despite the ramifications, Darvish isn’t feeling pressured and is approaching Game 3 as if it were any other normal start. “I don’t want to think about it too much,” he said through a translator.
“I try to take it as a regular outing. Hopefully that I go deep in the game like I normally do and just prepare as much as I can and just be ready to go.
“My focus is to just control what I can and do what I can do. Just because I worked hard today or do something different today, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to throw a 110-mile-an-hour fastball. It’s not going to change that much.”
Having pitched in the American League for the first four and a half seasons of his career, Darvish doesn’t have much experience against the Diamondbacks. In fact, the right-hander has faced Arizona just three previous times.
In Darvish’s most recent start against them on Aug. 10 — his second outing with the Dodgers — he allowed five hits and two runs over five innings with 10 strikeouts.
Darvish has tinkered with different arm slots and pitch selections since that outing, and believes that will play to his advantage.
“I think [the change in mechanics] will benefit me because they haven’t seen me pitch like I do now, like the last time we faced them, and then now how I pitch is different,” Darvish explained.
“So I think that’s going to benefit me. Of course the pitches, like certain pitches were different, and then my approach is different, too. So I think that’s going to benefit [me].”
Changes Darvish has implemented came at the suggestion of Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi. Manager Dave Roberts has credited the 31-year-old for being open to the wealth of information provided to him.
“Of course they gave me information, so I’m going to pitch basically with my strengths,” he said. “And with that little bit of information that they gave to me, I think I can use it, and I think it’s going to be very helpful for [Monday’s] outing.”