There was a glimmer of hope that a dream matchup between Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani would take place when the San Diego Padres began a two-game series against the visiting Los Angeles Angels.
The possibility of the Japanese superstars starting the same game on the mound has faded away for this season, but there’s still a chance Darvish could pitch to Ohtani for the first time in their major-league careers.
Darvish is scheduled to start on the mound for the Padres (73-65) on Wednesday.
The Angels (69-70) had not decided on a starter for Wednesday, but Ohtani remains unavailable after throwing an MLB-career high 117 pitches in a 3-2 win against the Texas Rangers on Friday.
Ohtani also won’t be in the starting batting order for a second straight game because the designated hitter rule doesn’t exist in National League ballparks. Ohtani leads the majors with 43 home runs.
Ohtani often is used as a late-game pinch-hitter when there’s no designated hitter, and he’d relish that opportunity on Wednesday.
“He’s someone I’ve always wanted to face one day,” Ohtani said through a translator after his last start on Friday. “He was my favorite pitcher growing up. I mean, he just had nasty pitches, making great throws and his presence on the mound was unbelievable. He was one of my favorites.”
Ohtani followed in Darvish’s footsteps in Japan.
As a 19-year-old in 2012, Ohtani was awarded Darvish’s ultra popular No. 11 jersey for the Nippon-Ham Fighters after Darvish signed with the Rangers.
Darvish has since made five All-Star teams, while Ohtani made his first this summer — ultimately becoming the winning pitcher for the AL.
Ohtani pinch-hit in Tuesday’s 4-0 victory and delivered an infield single in the eighth inning, just the second hit of the game by the Angels.
Their first hit was a big one, however.
Jo Adell drove in the first two runs of the game with a two-out single in the seventh inning, breaking up the no-hit bid by Blake Snell.
The Angels went on to win in what manager Joe Maddon said was one of their most well-played games of the season.
“You’ve got to get a bunch of guys to come out and play the game, not afraid to make a mistake, never be afraid to lose, and if you come out with those kinds of attitudes you will win a lot more often,” Maddon said. “That is what it’s supposed to look and feel like.”
Darvish has more motivation to pitch deep in the game on Wednesday than just the opportunity to face Ohtani.
Darvish (7-9, 4.05 ERA) hasn’t made it out of the third inning in two of his past three starts, both leading to losses against the NL-worst Arizona Diamondbacks.
Even more concerning, his slump dates back more than two months. He began July with a 7-2 record and 2.44 ERA, but is winless in nine starts since.
“I need to pitch six to seven innings and we need to win, too,” Darvish said.
The Padres fell back into a tie with the Cincinnati Reds for the second wild-card spot in the NL. They had won five of eight heading into this series.
–Field Level Media