Cubs’ Yu Darvish returns to personal house of horrors for pivotal start against Dodgers

“That’s his cross to bear a little bit,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Darvish’s infamous Game 7 struggles at Dodger Stadium the last time he pitched there.

SHARE Cubs’ Yu Darvish returns to personal house of horrors for pivotal start against Dodgers
World Series - Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Seven

Houston’s George Springer homers on the last pitch Yu Darvish threw at Dodger Stadium — in the second inning of Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. Darvish pitches at Dodger Stadium for the first time since then tonight, when his Cubs face the Dodgers.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES – The last time he traveled to Dodger Stadium, the pain in his elbow proved unbearable, and his injury-rehab program was shut down – the low point in his first season with the Cubs.

“I couldn’t even play catch here last year,” right-hander Yu Darvish said.

The last time he actually pitched at Dodger Stadium?

That might have hurt worse – from the pinnacle of his career to the low point in less than two innings flat.

“That was tough,” Darvish said of that Game 7 start in the 2017 World Series – when his last pitch for the Dodgers was hit over the fence to put Houston ahead 5-0, and he walked off the mound to a cascade of boos. “Especially for me.”

What happens next at this personal house of horrors for the Cubs’ enigmatic starter who admittedly thinks too much could be as important for him as any start since signing a six-year contract with the Cubs last year.

That happens tonight at 8:10 p.m., when he returns to Dodger Stadium, and faces the Dodgers for the first time in his career.

“He’s a deep thinker, and he’s definitely a present-tense guy,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “So I’m certain he’s going to feel all that. However, he’s passed a lot of hurdles this year, and I think this is going to be another one that he’s going to pass.”

Darvish laughed when asked what the fan reaction might be. “I don’t know, maybe boos,” he said.

The Cubs aren’t laughing as they take the field tonight, having lost the first two games of this four-game series against a team they’ll likely have to beat to reach the World Series. It’s harder to imagine that scenario if Darvish can’t eventually play an impactful role for this rotation.

“He’s gone through some firsts with Wrigley, which is equally – I don’t know if the word’s ‘intimidating’ – but there’s different venues that you’ve got to work through,” Maddon said. “And he’s worked through Wrigley pretty well. I really anticipate good.”

Darvish, who acknowledged the magnitude and scrutiny last month when he faced Jake Arrieta at Wrigley Field, said this one is a big start for him, too.

“But not like that one, not like against Arrieta,” he said of the fan favorite and postseason hero he replaced on the Cubs staff.

From the outside this one looks much bigger, given the opponent and Darvish’s excruciating history pitching in this place.

“Whether it’s certain things he’s got to get past coming to Dodger Stadium, I’m not sure what’s on his mind,” said Dodger manager Dave Roberts, who also referenced some of Darvish’s contributions to the Dodgers down the stretch and in the playoffs after a trade from the Rangers that summer.

“I know he loved his time in L.A. with the Dodgers and the fans,” Roberts added. “It’s more of Game 7 didn’t go well for any of us.

“I think that’s his cross to bear a little bit.”

The Astros didn’t score again in that Game 7 and beat the Dodgers 5-1.

Darvish (2-3 with a 4.98 ERA) said he’s just happy to be healthy as he returns to Dodger Stadium for the first time since an aborted bullpen session last June marked the end of his comeback from elbow soreness.

Just a “usual” start, he said.

Of course, there’s nothing business-as-usual about this one, not when it comes to these teams and their goals, and the role he plays in them.

Even he acknowledged that much when he signed with the Cubs and quickly called Roberts and “told him my main goal was to beat the Dodgers.”

Afterwards it was suggested that something might have been lost in the translation.

“It wasn’t lost in translation,” Roberts said. “He said he was going to beat us. I wished him well and reciprocated what he said.”

Darvish walks it back now.

“No, it was just, ‘See you in October,’ “ he said. “That’s it.”

If anything, that might just mean October starts on June 15.

“I think he’s going to come out here with a different mindset,” Maddon said. “I think a lot of that’s going to be in his rear-view mirror. There are going to be hurdles to get over for him; I get that. But I think he’s been better at putting things in the rear-view mirror.

“And if he continues that way and throws the ball like he has, good stuff is right around the corner.”

The Latest
Matthew Lewandowski caught a big pike that attacked the little pike he was reeling in last week in Canada that adds to a family tradition of fishing; and earns Fish of the Week honors.
An 18-year-old man walking near 57th Street and Dorchester Avenue about 9 Sunday night was robbed by four males who exited a white sedan, Chicago police said.
The man was pulled from the water after a search and he was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston where he was pronounced dead, police said.
Preliminary information indicates the person may have already been lying in the road before he was struck, officials said.
Just before 2 a.m., the man, 42, was sitting in a parked vehicle in the 9800 block of South Ellis Avenue when he was shot in the head, Chicago police said.