HOUSTON — Before his Game 2 start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, Astros ace Justin Verlander talked a bit about his mental focus heading into a postseason start.
That included this comment: “It’s just another level. I don’t know how to really explain it. There are times throughout the course of the game where I lose track of where we’re at in the game and don’t really know what’s going on.” After that wild Game 2, which the Astros won 7-6 in extra innings, Verlander said he nearly fainted three times during the game.
It’s safe to say that Yu Darvish is not Justin Verlander.
If Verlander is the eye-popping emoji (which he obviously is), then Darvish, the Dodgers’ starting pitcher for Game 3 on Friday night at Minute Maid Park, is a shrug emoji.
Maybe it’s just the way he prepares mentally, but Darvish seems to be shrugging off anything having to do with the largeness of his first World Series start. He was asked Thursday why he was so calm.
“It’s just who I am and my character characteristics,” Darvish said through his interpreter Hideaki Sato.
He was asked about his history at Minute Maid Park, since he spent all of his career with the Texas Rangers until the July trade to the Dodgers and pitched more often in Houston than any other Dodgers pitcher.
“It doesn’t really matter,” Darvish said. “It’s better to know that I’ve pitched here before. But [Friday’s] game, it could be totally different from my previous outings, here. But like I said, it’s better to know this stadium and I pitched here before. Maybe it will give me a little bit of an advantage, but it really doesn’t matter.”
Surely he thinks pitching a pivotal Game 3 is important now that the series is back in Houston tied 1-1. Right?
“Any games that we play right now is important,” Darvish said. “Not necessarily first game, second game, third game, any game we play right now it’s important.”
None of this is to impugn Darvish, mind you. Players, particularly pitchers, prepare differently. Some work better when they’ve swallowed the magnitude of the moment and keep bottled it up inside their body. Others prefer to act like it’s just another day on the mound.
One interesting note about Darvish, via a column from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times: He never dreamed of playing in the World Series. That makes sense when you consider he grew up in Japan and dreamed about playing pro baseball there. Here’s what Darvish said:
“I have never thought about wanting to pitch in the World Series,” he said. “I just don’t want to lose until the end. When you lose in a division series or league championship series, everyone is like this.”
Darvish looked down and hunched over, as if to convey sadness.
“I don’t like going into the offseason with that feeling, so my goal has always been to win until the end,” he said. “So, as a result, winning the World Series has become my goal. But I have stronger feelings about wanting to end the season with a win.”
Then came Darvish going peak Baseball Nihilist. Again, from The Times:
“You can leave your mark in history, but once you’re dead it doesn’t matter, so I don’t really think about that,” he said.
You could argue the man has a point. And he probably won’t almost faint three times during Game 3.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – –