Yu Darvish Can Avenge Game 3 Nightmare, Become World Series Game 7 Hero

Scott Miller@@ScottMillerBblNational MLB ColumnistNovember 1, 2017

Los Angeles Dodgers' Yu Darvish watches from the dugout during the first inning of Game 4 of baseball's World Series against the Houston Astros Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Yu Darvish patiently explained Tuesday why he declined Yuli Gurriel's offer to personally and privately apologize to him over the weekend in Houston.

Wouldn't you know it. The way this wild and thrilling World Series finally will play out, they instead will meet again very, very publicly here Wednesday night. Gurriel has faced outrage and a delayed suspension after he made an offensive gesture by slanting his eyes while in the dugout during Game 3 of the series.

In the biggest start of his life, Darvish, who came up small in a Game 3 bludgeoning, now has a golden chance at redemption when the Los Angeles Dodgers hand him the ball for Game 7.

Darvish appeared at the podium in the press room Tuesday roughly four hours before the Dodgers ambushed Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros 3-1 in Game 6 to steal what might have been the Astros' last, best hope to win what has turned into one of the most classic World Series in years.

"I told him, 'Hey, you don't have to do that, because you made a comment, and, like, I'm not that mad,'" Darvish said, referring to a Gurriel apology that already had been relayed to him. "So, like, I really didn't care that much about that."

But Darvish's teammates knew what it would mean to him to get another chance to shine on the sport's biggest stage, and they promised they would make it happen.

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In a pregame dugout huddle before Game 6, several Dodgers assured Darvish, "We're going to get this one for you."

It had more meaning than simply helping him overcome his 1.2-inning, six-hit, four-earned run letdown. It was about showing him they had his back amid a controversy he didn't want to be dragged into.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31:  Yuli Gurriel #10 of the Houston Astros reacts during the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game six of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 31, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Ezra Sha
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Gurriel, who was predictably and lustily booed by the sellout crowd of 54,128 in both pregame introductions and in each of his four plate appearances in Game 6 on Tuesday, chose not to appear postgame. He left before reporters were allowed inside the Astros clubhouse, leaving only a shiny gold watch in his locker as evidence that he had, indeed, occupied it.

The Astros expected their teammate would have his ears pinned back by Los Angelenos. Veteran Carlos Beltran, a teammate of Darvish's with the Texas Rangers last season before he signed with the Astros in December, has worked overtime behind the scenes to broker peace and make sure each of these men can try to move forward despite Gurriel's reprehensible racist gesture. Knowing Dodgers fans would let Gurriel have it, Beltran made sure to talk with the Astros' slugging first baseman earlier in the day.

"I told him: Just think about it as if they're calling 'Yuuuuu,' the two letters of your first name," Beltran said. "Just try to flip that and use it as an advantage.

"He made a mistake. Yu Darvish, based on his quote, was able to turn the page right away. He said it was offensive for him, but he put a good quote out there and focused on the positive, not the negative."

What was particularly powerful about Darvish's statement was his desire for the world to learn from this and embrace love.

We all need to learn from how inappropriate and offensive the gesture was. We need to learn how to show remorse for our mistakes. We need to learn how to forgive when that remorse is shown, even when it seems hard not to hold on to that hate.

The only positive that can come out of this is the hope it can prevent a similar situation in the future.

Gurriel, who went 1-for-4 in Game 6, spent much of his night on the business end of the Dodger Stadium catcalls. As Los Angeles radio play-by-play man Charley Steiner said on the air, the fans did not let him up for air.

"I understand," Astros center fielder George Springer said. "I guess you have the right to be upset, but, in my opinion, this one instance doesn't define Yuli."

It's not surprising the Astros have defended their friend. He's a guy they need in a good mindset in order to take home a ring.

But MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said it best when asked to make a statement on the situation: "There is no place in our game for any behavior like the behavior we witnessed last night. There is no excuse."

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31:  Yu Darvish #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on from the dugout in game six of the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium on October 31, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty
Harry How/Getty Images

Darvish will have enough on his mind as he attempts to atone for a Game 3 shellacking in which he lasted just 12 batters. He threw only 49 pitches. And it was Gurriel's leadoff home run in the second that led to the ugly incident that scarred what otherwise has been one of the most joyful and pulsating World Series in years.

Back in the dugout, Gurriel put his fingers to the corners of his eyes and pulled on them, saying to his teammates he hadn't had success against Japanese pitchers. He also referred to Darvish as "chinito," a demeaning Spanish term for Asians.

The gesture and the word were caught by a television camera, went right onto social media and soon went viral. A chastened Gurriel issued a statement of apology afterward and then spent five minutes apologizing and attempting to explain himself to reporters.

It was a night Darvish would like to forget for many reasons, not the least of which was because the Dodgers acquired him from the Rangers minutes before the July trade deadline to help them win a World Series. Between that and his impending free agency this winter, this is perhaps the most important stretch of Darvish's career.

Now, here comes Game 7.

"First of all, not just as a teammate, but as a person, we have really good people in this clubhouse," Darvish said. "I really appreciate my teammates supporting me. But going towards [the Game 7] outing, it doesn't change anything.

"I take any game seriously, and it's going to be the same because of what happened before Game 4. ... I'm making every effort I can make for every time I go out there."

The Dodgers continued to have Darvish's back during Game 6. Before Gurriel's first at-bat, Los Angeles starter Rich Hill stepped off the rubber and acted busy, allowing the boos to pummel Gurriel for a few extra moments.

Now, as the Dodgers attempt to win their first World Series since 1988 with Darvish leading the way, the veteran right-hander will have his own say. And likely in the second inning, Gurriel will step into the batter's box, and their latest meeting will be on full, dramatic public display.

"That's crazy, man," Beltran said. "Sometimes things play out the way we cannot script."

So much drama always is on display in Game 7.

With the world watching and, hopefully, learning, this one will pack a little something extra.

     

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.