LOS ANGELES — Facing their first deficit since the playoffs began last week, the San Diego Padres will turn over their rotation Wednesday in order to get back to what has worked.
Following a 5-3 defeat to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday in Game 1 of the best-of-five National League Division Series, the Padres will turn back to right-hander Yu Darvish, who was impressive in Game 1 of the NL wild-card series on Friday against the New York Mets.
Darvish (1-0, 1.29 ERA postseason; 16-8, 3.10 ERA regular season) gave up just one run over seven innings in San Diego’s playoff opener at New York, but now he heads to a mound where a chance at postseason glory eluded him.
Darvish was a member of the Dodgers in 2017 when he was asked to start Game 7 of the World Series against the Houston Astros. He gave up five runs (four earned) in just 1 2/3 innings and the Astros walked away with the title. Darvish finished that year’s postseason 2-2 with a 6.14 ERA in four starts.
Acquired during the 2017 season, Darvish didn’t return to the Dodgers but has since revisited something near the form he displayed when he was an All-Star in four of his first five major league seasons. He finished second in the NL Cy Young Award race in 2020 as a member of the Chicago Cubs, then was an All-Star last season with the Padres and was in top form this season.
Darvish calls himself a different pitcher than the one who stumbled in the World Series spotlight.
“You go through that experience in 2017, and there’s a lot to learn from that,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “That helps you grow to become a better pitcher. Not just me. I’ve had some help from other staff, coaches around me, but it’s a learning experience that you go through and you grow from that.”
In four starts against the Dodgers this season, Darvish went 1-2 but with a 2.52 ERA in 25 innings, including seven shutout innings in a Sept. 2 win. It was one of just five Padres victories in 19 regular-season games against the Dodgers. In 10 career starts against Los Angeles, Darvish is 3-5 with a 2.47 ERA.
The Dodgers will turn to Clayton Kershaw (2022 postseason debut; 12-3, 2.28 ERA). The 34-year-old left-hander has been a regular-season legend in his 15 seasons, pitching to a 2.48 ERA in 401 career appearances. His playoff history, though, has been something of a rocky ride, as he is 13-12 with one save and a 4.19 ERA in 37 appearances (30 starts).
Forearm discomfort knocked Kershaw out of last season’s playoffs. The Wednesday game is scheduled to be his first postseason start since he went 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in the 2020 World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Dodgers won the 2020 title in six games, their only championship in their run of nine consecutive playoff appearances before this season. Last year, they were eliminated by the Atlanta Braves in the NL Championship Series.
“Obviously, last year it was disappointing,” Kershaw said. “You want to be a part of it. You want to be in it regardless, good or bad. You would rather be in it than not in it. You want to be a part of it. That’s why we do this. That’s what makes it fun.”
In 12 innings over two starts against the Padres this season, Kershaw was impressive, going 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA. In 45 career regular-season starts against San Diego, he is 23-9 with a 2.03 ERA in 292 innings. He also beat the Padres in Game 2 of the 2020 NL Division Series after throwing six innings of three-run ball.
“It’s October … everybody has something (physical) going on,” Kershaw said. “Your pitches aren’t going to be perfect. Whatever it is, you just have to go out there and compete. Whoever competes the best is going to win this series along with every other one.”
–By Doug Padilla, Field Level Media