SAN DIEGO — In keeping with the new crackdown on grip-enhancing substances, the umpires checked Padres starter Yu Darvish multiple times during Monday’s game.
Like most of the Dodgers hitters, they came up empty.
Darvish struck out 11 in six innings, including seven consecutive batters at one point, holding the Dodgers to two hits as a delighted sellout crowd at Petco Park watched the San Diego Padres “Beat L.A.,” 6-2.
“Honestly, I think the stuff that Darvish had tonight, the lanes that he was pitching in, the slider, the cutter – I mean, I just don’t see him not dominating any major-league lineup tonight with the stuff that he had,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Certainly, we’ve seen him before. But it was really good. He’s a strikeout pitcher and he had his way with us.”
The latest renewal of this fresh-out-of-the-wrapper rivalry once again was played with a playoff atmosphere – at least the Padres embraced it that way. The Dodgers seemed to be caught flat-footed after spending most of the past two weeks playing last-place teams.
Darvish certainly made it look that way.
Mookie Betts grounded out to start the game and Gavin Lux walked. Darvish struck out the next seven Dodgers before giving up a solo home run to Betts. Lux followed that with a ground out to end the third inning – and become the first Dodger other than Betts to put a ball in play against Darvish.
“He was just mixing up his pitches, keeping out of the middle of the plate,” said Betts, one of only two Dodgers starters (along with Lux) not to contribute to the lineup’s 16 strikeouts Monday. “He’s a really good pitcher. That’s why he is who he is.”
The Padres right-hander retired nine Dodgers in a row after Betts’ homer and reached 1,500 strikeouts – in his career, not the game (though it almost seemed like it) – on a called strike three to Steven Souza Jr. to start the fifth inning. The pitch was off the plate but it made Darvish the first pitcher to reach that strikeout milestone in fewer than 200 games (197).
The one-time Dodger – you might remember that – has started three times against the Dodgers since joining the Padres this season. He has won two of the three, allowing just three runs on seven hits while striking out 29 in 20 innings.
“It’s sort of the same formula. It’s a slider, it’s a curveball and it’s a cutter,” Roberts said. “A lot of glove-side action – in to lefties, away to righties. When he gets behind, that’s what he goes to. He’ll mix in some fastballs but he’s using his secondaries a lot.”
Dodgers starter Julio Urias got the same treatment from the umpires as Darvish, checking his cap, glove and belt for sticky stuff. Maybe they should have offered him some instead.
The first four Padres batters reached base against Urias and all scored. Tommy Pham doubled, Fernand Tatis Jr. walked and Jake Cronenworth doubled. Manny Machado cleared the bases with a three-run home run.
Urias faced nine batters in the first inning and threw 36 pitches. He made it into the fifth without giving up any more runs but then gave up a leadoff double to Tatis and a two-run home run to Cronenworth.
“Obviously, I didn’t feel very good with my stuff tonight and that’s what happened,” Urias said through an interpreter. “I was trying to stick to my plan. I had a plan going into the start. But my pitches weren’t as sharp as they usually are.”
The formerly bubble-wrapped Urias has already thrown more innings this year (88) than he ever has during a regular season in the big leagues. The quality of those innings has diminished recently. Over his last five starts, Urias has a 6.31 ERA and batters are hitting .317 with eight doubles and six home runs. Urias hasn’t completed six innings in any of those starts after pitching into the seventh five times in his first 10 starts.
That the recent downturn has come along with a decreased spin rate does not make Urias unique around MLB.
“I think that certain starts it’s been the fastball command. I don’t think that was the case today. I don’t really think there’s any one particular thing that’s led to that inflated ERA,” Roberts said.
“I don’t see fatigue. I think the stuff has held. Certainly, the results recently haven’t mirrored the stuff, in my opinion. We’re monitoring it each outing. But again, the breaking ball and changeup at times have been very good and the fastball has been very good and he’s held velocity. So there’s nothing that has spoken to a shutdown or the skipping of a start.”
The Dodgers’ best chance to get back in the game came after Darvish left. Padres relievers Tim Hill and Austin Adams loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a hit batter in the seventh. But Betts flew out on a 2-and-0 slider up in the zone from Adams to end the inning without cashing in.
“I think I just missed it,” Betts said. “I got it pretty good on the bat but just kind of flipped it instead of getting all of it. I’m not really too mad. I put a good swing on it. I just didn’t flush it.”
Will Smith did flush one, a 433-foot solo homer in the eighth inning. Smith has four home runs and a .308 average (8 for 26) over his past nine games.
Manny knew it.
— MLB (@MLB) June 22, 2021
— MLB (@MLB) June 22, 2021
We are all in the Crone zone. pic.twitter.com/707DOHfDJK
— MLB (@MLB) June 22, 2021