Five batters, five runs. Yu Darvish took the bump at Guaranteed Rate Field and gave up three hits — double, single, single — to open the bottom of the 1st inning. Then he walked a batter before serving up a fastball that Eloy Jiménez deposited into the batter’s eye in center for a grand slam. Two outs were followed by a single, at which point Darvish had reached his pitch count and the frame mercifully ended.
After requiring 29 pitches to retire two of the eight batters he faced to start the game, however, Darvish settled in and needed only 38 pitches to retire nine of the next 10 batters the Sox sent to the plate. Moral victories are worth about as much as exhibition victories, which is to say they don’t matter, but anyone who had the chance to watch the game saw a distinctly different pitcher following that early implosion.
Darvish acknowledged as much in a postgame tweet, explaining that it took him a little time to sort of snap into a competitive mode and really get into his groove.
“I threw it to other team opponents after a long absence!” reads a rough translation. “After the first hit, I felt like I was feeling more focused and focused like the season. The only cuts that I’m most good at are the rest. Next is the opening, so make sure to adjust it.”
— ダルビッシュ有(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) July 21, 2020
I’m sure some of you are already pointing out settling in hardly matters when it comes after a handful of runs have already scored, and you’re right. But like Javy Báez talking about taking a few innings to get warmed up or the Cubs as a whole waiting until later in the season to really turn it on and get serious about pushing for the postseason, there’s something to be said for athletes really flipping the switch. For Darvish, it appears as though getting roughed up may have done just that.
We’ll find out soon enough whether or not that’s really the case, since he’ll be on the mound Saturday afternoon when the Brewers are in town to open the season.