By HAL McCOY
Yu Darvish made a request he probably now wishes he hadn’t made. And Los Angeles Dodger manager Dave Roberts probably wishes he hadn’t granted Darvish his request.
Under normal circumstances, Darvish would have pitched Game Two of the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros in Dodger Stadium.
Darvish, though, has had monumental success pitching against the Astros in their home, Minute Maid Park. In fact, early in 2013, which pitching for the Texas Rangers, Darvish came within one out of a perfect game, ruining by a two-out ninth-inning single by Marwin Gonzalez.
So there he was Friday night on the mound for the Dodgers. But he wasn’t there long.
Darvish last only 1 2/3 innings, the shortest start of his career, and gave up four runs in the second inning, a quick start that carried the Astros to a 5-3 victory and a two games to one lead.
While Darvish couldn’t get out of his own way, Houston relief pitcher Brad Peacock strutted out of the bullpen and pitched the final 3 2/3 innings for a save, the second most innings pitched for a save in World Series history (since the save statistic was born in 1969).
Amazingly, it was Peacock’s first save in his major league career.
A clue surfaced quickly that it wasn’t Darvish’s night when he gave up a double to George Springer to start the bottom of the first.
Darvish worked out of that mini problem, but the second inning was total collapse as the offensive-minded Astros teed off.
Darvish ran into a whirling dervish.
It began with a leadoff home run by Yuli Gurriel into the left field Crawford boxes. Josh Reddick singled and Evan Gattis walked on a full count. Marwin Gonzalez singled to make it 2-0 and Brian McCann singled off the left field wall to make it 3-0.
And there were no outs. Darvish finally retired George Springer on a line drive to second base, but Alex Bregman hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0. Jose Altuve then doubled and Darvish’s very short night was over.
Coming in Darvish was 2-and-0 with a 1.58 earned run average in the postseason and was 4-and-0 with a 0.59 ERA in his previous five starts. But on this night he gave up four runs, six hits, walked one and uncharacteristically didn’t strike out a hitter. He utilizes six pitches, but his knockout pitch, his slider, was non-existent.
Blessed with a 4-0 lead, Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. lost focus and total control in the top of the third. He walked the first three Dodgers.
Escape came, though, when McCullers coaxed a double play ball from Corey Seager as a run scored. But that was the only run the Dodgers collected out of those walks with nobody out.
Houston retrieved that run in the sixth when Josh Reddick singled with two outs and nobody on and came all the way from first when LA pitcher Tony Watson fielded a slow roller toward third hit by Evan Gattis and threw it away, a hit and an error that pushed Houston’s lead to 5-1.
McCullers, though, didn’t make it out of the sixth inning after giving up a walk and a double to Justin Turner to open the inning. He was permitted to face probable National League Rookie of the Year Cody Belllinger and struck him out for the third time, the only three strikeouts McCullers recorded. At that point, Bellinger was 0 for 10 with six strikeouts.
At that point, McCullers was replaced by Brad Peacock. One run scored on a ground ball and a second came across on Peacock’s two-out wild pitch and it was 5-3.
The Astros nearly turned it into a rout in the seventh inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, George Springer hit one that left the bat at 108 miles and hour and traveled 408 feet. But the ball was caught at the wall — the third out of the inning instead of a grand slam. And as LA pitcher Ross Stripling left the mound, with both hands on his head, he said, “Wow.”
So instead of 9-3 it was still 5-3 and the Astros had some pitching to do — six more outs. And Peacock did it.
While LA manager Dave Roberts continues to parade a steady stream of relief pitchers into the games — he used six pitchers Friday — Houston manager A.J. Hinch rides the hot hand.
And the hot right now the right handed Peacock, a former starter now working out of the Astros bullpen. And work he does, a proud Peacock on the mound.
He replaced McCullers with one out in the sixth and finished it — retiring the final seven Dodgers, three on strikeouts. He pitched 3 2/3 innings for the save, giving up no runs, no hits, one walk and four strikeouts.