To the surprise of no one, his reception coming in was similar to the reaction Dodgers fans gave him on the way out that fateful night. A chorus of boos rained down from the Los Angeles faithful as the 32-year-old right-hander walked out and warmed up in his Chicago Cubs uniform.
It was Darvish who got the final word though. He pitched arguably the best game of his brief Cubs career in their thrilling 2-1 victory, allowing just an Alex Verdugo home run while striking out 10 over seven thoroughly dominant innings.
Yu Darvish: first #Cubs 10+ K performance at Dodger Stadium since Jake Arrieta had 12 in his no-hitter 8/30/2015
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 16, 2019
Though he was saddled with a no-decision, it’s an outing that Darvish desperately needed. His Cubs career had been a disappointment since signing a six-year, $126 million contract last winter. Injuries limited him to 22 starts with Chicago coming in, while also limiting his effectiveness. His Cubs ERA sat at 4.97.
Darvish gets the first word, too
The reaction of Dodgers fans didn’t catch Darvish offguard. His anticipation fueled a subtle dig he was able to get in on Dodgers fans before they unloaded on him.
Yu Darvish told @dylanohernandez that "the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side." It was not. The #Cubs RHP heard resounding boos when he was introduced before game.
— Mike DiGiovanna (@MikeDiGiovanna) June 16, 2019
The late-arriving crowd bit can be a sore spot for some Dodgers fans.
Not as sore as the 2017 World Series perhaps. But enough that it counts as a jab.
It didn’t hold up though against the venom spewed forth by the Dodger Stadium crowd.
Yu Darvish with a warm welcome in his return to Dodger Stadium.
A loud collective “Yuuu” or boos? You be the judge...
Yes I know the correct answer. pic.twitter.com/waxvIQA4J0
— Blake Harris (@BlakeHarrisTBLA) June 16, 2019
Memories of that 2017 World Series, in which Darvish lost Game 3 and Game 7 while posting a 21.60 ERA over just 3 1/3 innings, clearly have not faded. Nor has Darvish’s decision to leave Los Angeles, which he in part credited to concerns about how his family, and especially his kids, would be treated if he stuck around.
A few of Darvish’s former Dodgers teammates came to his defense this week. That included longtime ace Clayton Kershaw. The message was the same: “No one player was responsible for losing to the Houston Astros in the World Series.”
Dodgers fans weren’t ready to move on. At least not until they got one more good boo in. But perhaps this evening will finally bring closure to the disappointment of 2017, while bringing renewed confidence to Darvish.
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