LOS ANGELES – During batting practice Wednesday, Chase Utley skipped down the dugout steps. A hard left took him to the orange water bucket he sought. His hand reached for a paper cup. There were no cups where the cups should have been. Where they always have been. He slid his hand to the other side of the bucket. Still no cups. His shoulders sagged. His lips pursed. He turned again, departed the dugout by way of the tunnel that leads to the clubhouse and returned minutes later with a stack of perhaps 50 cups, wrapped in plastic. He set the cups in the metal holder beside the bucket, tore the top from the plastic, plucked the lead cup from the tower of cups and filled that cup with water. He sipped his water. As the cup neared empty, he took two steps, then a third, paused, finished his cup of water with a tilt of his head and, just as he had timed it, dropped the cup into a trash can.
This had nothing to do with Yu Darvish making his regular-season Dodger Stadium debut (he threw three innings at Dodger Stadium for Team Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic), as he would later Wednesday night.
Or any connection to Clayton Kershaw’s two simulated innings earlier Wednesday afternoon, after which Kershaw allowed the drive-by observation, “Everything is great. I feel good. And I’ve got another sim game in five days. Woo!” He said woo.
Or any concrete value to what would come to pass six hours later, the three-run ninth-inning rally, the 85th win, the way things go around here anymore, before another full stadium of people who come to see what they can’t believe again.
Except for, perhaps, nah, there is no except for. It was just a parched Chase Utley being apparently unwilling to put his mouth under the spigot like everyone else would’ve and therefore save themselves the time and energy required to trudge off to the cup storage area, wherever that might be. And then being so dutifully inclined to return with more than a single cup, the only cup he’d need, and therefore to handle a job that typically falls under the authority of the clubhouse staff.
Except for maybe every little thing has its every little place, and sometimes that’s Cody Bellinger in the ninth inning against a fellow left-hander, followed by Logan Forsythe down the line, followed by Austin Barnes to center field, followed by Yasiel Puig into left-center field, followed by another party, another few hours well spent, another day closer to October.
Afterward, Puig leaned into a microphone and said to the delirious folks in a stadium a-wobble, “I’ll see you in the World Series guys.”
They thought that a reasonable idea. Everything in its place, see.
Utley had taken some hacks off Kershaw in the simulated game, and fared about as well as the others. Kershaw’s command was about how you’d suspect after missing three weeks of baseball games. His velocity, however, was fine, and he seemed happy enough afterward, and manager Dave Roberts later reported Kershaw had come out of the exercise with no issues, physical or otherwise, old or new.
The benefit of the Dodgers hardly losing anymore was evident on this Wednesday night in mid-August. In the slow play of getting Kershaw healthy and back into the rotation. And in the presence of Darvish, the rent-a-No. 2 (or 3) from the Texas Rangers, whose formal hello to Dodger fans was a first-pitch fastball at 93 mph which Chicago White Sox leadoff hitter Leury Garcia knocked off the right-field foul pole.
It was quite a moment, actually, Darvish entering to Soulja Boy, the crowd very excited to see the reedy right-hander and one-time ace wearing its colors, Darvish introducing himself and his Rangers red glove with that fastball, the crowd very quietly watching the ball soar until it connected with the pole and made a crinkly metallic sound like when your kid backs the new car into the garage door.
At some point the Dodgers might need greatness out of Darvish. Not now. Not yet. Meantime, this mid-August Wednesday brought a little mix of everything. Three home runs allowed, one each by Garcia, Nicky Delmonico and Jose Abreu. Ninety pitches, just 10 swings and misses, over six innings. He didn’t strike out a batter until the sixth inning, that being Yoan Moncada, the 24th White Sox batter of the game, and he followed that by striking out Omar Narvaez, the 25th. He walked one batter. He gave up eight hits, three of them, as we mentioned, the loud kind. And so in three starts as a Dodger, 17 days after three minor leaguers went to Texas for him, Darvish has been good, OK and OK.
Then, he left the game under odd circumstances. Standing on the mound prior to the seventh inning, Darvish looked up to see his manager, his translator and a trainer approaching. Darvish greeted them with his arms out, as if to suggest, “What?” After a brief discussion, Darvish handed over the baseball and loped to the dugout. He accepted a few high-fives from his new teammates. He held a conversation with his glove over his mouth. He left the dugout. And later Roberts revealed Darvish has a stiff back, but would make his next start, so not to worry, everything is in place, or enough is, and what is not will be soon enough.
“You never know with this team,” Puig would say, and nobody wants to be the stray, the one who concerns himself with his at-bats or his role or his time out front. That’s the mood here, so far. That’s what’s new, so far.
There are enough cups to go around.