Baseball fans should really be enjoying these playoffs so far, and the division series aren’t even completed.
Two are, and one is thanks to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bats and right-hander Yu Darvish. Those watching him late, late Monday saw him allow one run — a Daniel Descalso homer — in five innings plus one batter.
Darvish allowed one other hit, a bunt single, and struck out seven Arizona Diamondbacks and walked none on only 74 pitches. He earned his first career postseason victory as the Dodgers won 3-1 to complete a three-game sweep and advance to the National League Championship Series.
Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley was part of the TBS broadcast team, and he acted as if he’d never seen Darvish pitch. To say Eck seemed impressed would be an insult to understatements.
And fans of the Texas Rangers? Frustrated, probably. Angry? Sure.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction, Off-Season Edition 1, after Darvish did his job.
1. Where was this performance this season with the Rangers? Well ...
Darvish had six starts in which he tossed at least six innings and allowed one or no runs. There were five more in which he tossed at least six innings and allowed two runs. There were four more starts of at least six innings and three runs.
Effective, quality starts were there, far more often than not, over his 22 starts before the Rangers traded him July 31. He had only three of those six-inning, one-run-or-less outings in nine Dodgers starts.
The start Monday was not, technically, a quality start even though it was pretty dang good.
Darvish had only two starts with the Rangers with no walks, and only eight in which he averaged 15 pitches or fewer per innings.
That’s where the angst with Darvish resided over his five-plus seasons with the Rangers, that and his outlandishly slow tempo.
Oh, and that he was unable to win either of his two career postseason starts with the Rangers.
He’s 1 for 1 with the Dodgers and will get a chance to make it 2 for 2, but only recently has he been pitching the way they have asked him.
2. A story in the Orange Country Register on Monday explained the changes the Dodgers have asked Darvish to make, namely returning to the arm slot he had before undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2015.
Darvish was presented with analysis and data, and apparently he bought into what he was being sold. The results, including his win Monday, have been very good.
(The TBS broadcast also said that Clayton Kershaw, World’s Best Pitcher, noticed something amiss in Darvish’s tempo — he had none? — that he has also worked to fix.)
So, within the matter of two months, the Dodgers have convinced Darvish to remake himself like his old self, only with more tempo.
Why, in the course of a season, couldn’t the Rangers have done the same after Darvish returned from Tommy John?
Darvish, for one, had to be a willing participant, and he was behind finding a new post-surgery arm slot. Even after Rangers starts this season, he talked about how another elbow blowout was always somewhere in his mind.
Here’s a thought: Maybe after 20-plus inconsistent starts he finally became so flustered that he surrendered his stubbornness and listened to any suggestions. Old arm slot, backed by evidence that made sense to Darvish, and more tempo, backed by the World’s Best Pitcher.
3. But is it convincing enough to make Darvish want to re-sign with the Dodgers, assuming they want to keep him? If what those who have followed Darvish throughout his career are correct, then yes.
He’s likes being comfortable, which he had every right to be with the Rangers. All they did was bend over backwards for him. Probably too much.
That’s not to say the Dodgers aren’t doing the same thing. Darvish, for instance, is still talking to the media only twice a week.
But if possession is nine-tenths of the law, Darvish has the Dodgers and the Dodgers have Darvish.
If the Rangers decide to make a play for him, they have his Dallas home to play on. They have the whole no-state-income-tax thing, too. They must be able to produce the same kind of evidence the Dodgers have, though it’s not like the Dodgers can demand Darvish return it to them if he were to leave.
The Rangers supposedly left Darvish with the understanding that, though they were trading him, they wanted to re-sign him in the off-season. Darvish supposedly was open to the idea.
Maybe it’s an out-of-sight out-of-mind situation, but no one asked general manager Jon Daniels about Darvish during the season wrap-up (nor did anyone ask about Jurickson Profar).
Shohei Ohtani, who is scheduled to have surgery Thursday on his right ankle, Andrew Cashner seem to be the top targets. Cashner, not Jake Arrieta, would seem to be the ex-TCU pitcher most likely to sign with the Rangers.
The Rangers have liked Alex Cobb, who pitched well for Tampa Bay this season, in the past.
Lance Lynn had a fine year in St. Louis coming off Tommy John surgery.
And, of course, Darvish. Apparently like his pre-TJ self. And, as of Monday, a winning pitcher in a postseason game.