Halfway through the two-minute, 20-second break between Wednesday’s sixth and seventh innings, Yu Darvish emerged from the stairway that leads to Dodger Stadium’s home clubhouse. He ambled out to the mound, threw five leisurely warmup pitches, and then welcomed a visit from Dodgers trainer Nate Lucero and manager Dave Roberts.
Soon, Darvish handed over the baseball and sprinted off the field. The Dodgers were granted an injury delay, which Roberts later explained was related to Darvish’s back. The pitcher had been pitching through discomfort since his last start in Arizona, and relayed to trainers that it tightened after the sixth inning.
“Right there, for me,” Roberts said, “the decision was made.”
Amid a failed Dodgers’ rally in the bottom of the sixth, reliever Brandon Morrow had stretched and stepped up to the bullpen mound. As he was about to throw his first pitch, Logan Forsythe tapped into an inning-ending double play.
So, Darvish was unearthed, sent out to the mound and quickly removed, concluding his unspectacular six-inning Dodger Stadium debut. He surrendered three runs and generally did not resemble the borderline unbeatable pitcher he often is. But he did not bear the defeat, as the Dodgers again rallied in the ninth inning and Yasiel Puig delivered the walk-off double in their 5-4 win.
“I’ll see you in the World Series, guys,” Puig said in a Spectrum SportsNet television interview broadcast live to a raucous crowd.
White Sox manager Rick Renteria elected to piecemeal the ninth inning. After Gregory Infante retired Justin Turner to begin it, Renteria replaced him with Aaron Bummer. When Bummer allowed pinch-hitter Cody Bellinger to poke a single into center, Jake Petricka entered the game. He gave up a double to Forsythe and a single to Austin Barnes, bringing Puig to the plate.
Puig battled to eight pitches before pounding a slider into the gap in left-center. Barnes, running on the pitch, scored easily, giving the Dodgers (85-34) another highlight in their amazing season. Puig raised his arms as he neared first base and was mobbed near the mound by his jubilant teammates.
In his previous 124 career starts, Darvish had never notched fewer than three strikeouts. He did not record his first Wednesday until Yoan Moncada missed consecutive sliders with one out in the sixth. Darvish next struck out Omar Narvaez with another slider, his last pitch of the game.
With his first, he yielded a home run. He threw a 93-mph fastball much higher than he intended, and Leury Garcia crushed it to right. Chicago’s Tim Anderson had done the same to Dodgers starter Alex Wood the night before. For the first time in the 118-year history of the White Sox, they had first-pitch home runs in consecutive games.
Darvish gave up eight hits in all, but the White Sox did not amass their runs by rallying. All of their runs scored in the simplest manner, the solo shot. Nicky Delmonico notched their second with one out in the fourth. He added a second home run in the eighth, off reliever Tony Watson.
In between, Jose Abreu led off the sixth with a homer. Darvish did not miss his spot with that offering; he had just been behind, 1 and 0, and Abreu anticipated the fastball on the outside edge.
With the Dodgers facing young, talented left-hander Carlos Rodon, Forsythe mashed a double to lead off the Dodgers’ half of the second, moved to third base when Barnes grounded out and scored on a wild pitch by Rodon.
In the third, Rodon picked off Chris Taylor from first base to hamper the Dodgers’ efforts. Both Taylor and Corey Seager had singles in the inning. Enrique Hernandez tied the score at 2-2 when he led off the fourth with a homer to left-center.
The Dodgers could lose every game they play between now and Labor Day and they would still be guaranteed a division lead. The White Sox are the second-worst team in the sport, and they punted this season months ago. Only one of the other 13 major league games played Wednesday — Philadelphia at San Diego — held less potential postseason pull than this one.
And, yet, fans were seated in the farthest reaches of Dodger Stadium to see Darvish’s home debut, and the team announced a sellout.