Why Yu Darvish, Padres' Game 1 starter, is having more fun than ever – The Athletic

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NEW YORK — In the final month of his 10th big-league regular season, and his 17th as a professional pitcher, Yu Darvish continued what has been a constant quest for innovation and incorporation.

On Sept. 13 in Seattle, he debuted an “upshoot slider” with unique horizontal break. Four days later, he watched intently as Diamondbacks starter and Cy Young candidate Zac Gallen threw 28 curveballs against the Padres in Phoenix. A week after that, in a game at Coors Field, Darvish was throwing both upshoot sliders and an uncanny imitation of Gallen’s curveball — down to the velocity, spin and movement.

Crafting and honing offspeed pitches, for Darvish, has long been a source of enjoyment. The right-hander possesses the most varied and unpredictable repertoire in baseball. Last season, he became the fastest pitcher to log 1,500 strikeouts in the majors. On Sept. 3, he recorded his 3,000th professional strikeout, joining Hideo Nomo as the only players to reach the milestone between careers in Japan and the U.S.

Yet on Thursday, the eve of Darvish’s Game 1 start in the Wild Card Series, the reigning National League Pitcher of the Month mentioned other factors when asked about his recent success. His fastball command, he felt, had been sharp. And there was something else he had often discussed since he fired six no-hit innings on Opening Day.


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