If one is a denizen of the two major time zones east of Los Angeles, it’s entirely possible, between the time shift and his varying time between starts, that you haven’t seen Yu Darvish since his dramatic last-minute trade from the Rangers to the Dodgers. Parachuting into this Game 3, then, this chance for Los Angeles to sweep the talented but slightly hapless Diamondbacks out of the playoffs on their own field (their own field with their fiercely defended pool, mind you) was an experience, both as a practiced viewer of Yu Darvish and an unpracticed viewer of this machine-like Dodgers bullpen.
This story, by necessity, focuses on the Dodgers, as they’re the ones that have done the sweeping and still have chapters left to write in this 2017 season. We should, though, pause and give consideration to the Diamondbacks, who managed to keep this last game far more competitive than the first two, but weren’t quite able to find a miracle.
Zack Greinke somehow managed to only give up three runs across five-plus innings, despite only throwing 62 pitches for strikes of his 105 total. In that way, it was a classic Greinke start—the stuff was good, the outs were slow, and while only three runs allowed is usually within the bounds for a chance at a win, one run allowed felt like one run too many. In a series that had been entirely about offense, this Greinke and Darvish matchup made the ending all about the pitching.
Both pitchers only went five full innings and one extra batter pitched to in the sixth, but the way in which they recorded their 15 outs could not have been more different. Greinke only had four batters faced where he threw fewer than four pitches, and one of those was against Darvish. He threw 10 pitches to Yasiel Puig, eight to Chase Utley, and generally couldn’t figure out a way to be efficient at all. In contrast, when Darvish entered the fourth inning, he had only thrown 30 total pitches, and went on to only throw 76, eight of which were during his final batter faced.
Darvish still doesn’t look quite right in Dodgers blue, but that wasn’t why one couldn’t take their eyes off him. For 64 of the first 66 pitches he threw, he was simply unhittable. Opening his postseason strikeout account with seven, he looked every bit the pitcher that the Dodgers made that last-minute trade hoping to get. The slider slid, the fastball had premium velocity, and the cutter was the weapon that the Dodgers asked him to make it. It was something to behold, really, easy to appreciate as either a casual fan or a dedicated fanatic. It was a far cry from the disaster trash fire of his previous team’s 2016 postseason, when the Rangers had three pitchers melt down in a row, including Darvish.
Rather than just run out of pitches, the way that Greinke did, Darvish’s exit came about thanks to a scary, sudden loss of command. Pitching to Arizona pinch-hitter Christian Walker, Darvish couldn’t find the zone with the same authority as he had earlier in the game. He actually nearly hit Walker twice in one at-bat, but lucked out enough that the first errant fastball hit the knob of Walker’s bat, rather than his hands. The second time, Walker still managed to avoid being hit directly, but the 94 mph pitch clipped the brim of his helmet, sending Walker to first base and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to the mound to retrieve his second ace.
If that had been the only story of the night, the Dodgers might not be waking up still soaked in champagne right now, but fortunately for their fans, they also have one of the brightest young talents in the majors (and it sure feels like there are a lot of those right now). Cody Bellinger had what could colloquially be called “a heck of a night.” Bellinger was directly responsible for two of the Dodgers’ three runs, becoming the franchise's youngest player to hit a postseason home run in the process. At 22 years and 88 days, he stripped the record from Corey Seager, but true to this game, it’s not his offense that will be remembered.
Bellinger made one of the more spectacular catches in the standard repertoire, leaning (and falling) over the edge of the Dodgers’ dugout railing to take a foul ball away from Jeff Mathis and end the inning. In some ways, it’s a good thing he was making the third out, as that allowed us to admire pieta-like composition of his landing.
— Emma Baccelleerie ðŸŽƒ (@emmabaccellieri) October 10, 2017
Along with this work of art, Bellinger initiated and completed a 3-6-3 double play in the bottom of the sixth, cleaning up the baserunner Darvish left, and showed off his abilities as one of the most athletic first basemen in baseball on a sprawling 3-1 put out to finish off the sixth, an inning that should probably now be called The Bellinger.
The Dodgers may not have seemed the obvious choice to sweep going into this series—in fact in some places, they were the trendy upset pick—but now that they have done just that it’s easy to look back and see why. They’ve got about two-and-a-half aces, a bullpen that they’ve tweaked with mechanical precision (mainly by finding reliable arms to put around Kenley Jansen) to come in and get the exact number of outs they need, and Yasiel Puig’s best pine-tar ingesting faces. It doesn’t take obsessively watching every second of their games to figure that out.