Maddon Let Quintana and Hamels Work Through Trouble, Should Do Same for Darvish

I’m gonna try to keep this one quick and dirty since I’ve already dug in almost deep enough to provide a suitable grave should I die on this hill. Just in case you’ve managed to avoid the wild swinging of my cudgel to this point, I’m talking about how Joe Maddon needs to let Yu Darvish work through trouble. We saw perfect examples of that in the first two games when the Dodgers, when José Quintana and Cole Hamels were allowed to wriggle out of jams.

Maddon has been vocal about trying to protect Darvish, which only serves to fan the take-flames slowly roasting the big righty for being mentally weak. Even if those thoughts are based in fallacy, they gain momentum each time Darvish is lifted at the first sign of late pressure.

Quintana was teetering in the 7th inning against the Dodgers after having faced the minimum through the previous three innings. He opened with a strikeout of Corey Seager, then allowed a single, double, and groundout to open the door to a potential LA rally. Quintana then walked the next batter, which might have earned him a hook had he not been on the favorable end of a 6-2 lead.

But Maddon left him in to face the slugging Max Muncy, the only player in the Dodgers’ lineup with a homer against Quintana in his career. A little guile and a skosh of assistance from Ted Barrett’s amoebic strike zone ended the threat and allowed Quintana to exit gracefully, which is as it should have been.

Hamels had no semblance of the control and command we’ve seen from him in a Cubs uniform, walking five Dodgers through four innings Wednesday night. Two of those walks alternated with strikeouts to open the 4th, after which Hamels allowed an RBI infield single when he was unable to beat Chris Taylor to the bag.

It was the first hit he’d allowed, but it came on the lefty’s 78th pitch and he looked like a boxer who’d been granted a standing eight count after being knocked to the canvas. Rather than throw in the towel, Maddon sent pitching coach Tommy Hottovy to the mound with smelling salts. Hamels came to and notched a quick K, then answered the bell to open the following inning. And the next as well.

He didn’t look good and was clearly laboring to get a feel for his stuff, tying a career high with six walks. The last batter he faced, Cody Bellinger, continued his run as the hottest hitter on the planet by slicing a lob shot out to left to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead. It was far from a great outing by Hamels, but he kept wading into the fray and eating punches, saving the bullpen in the process.

It should be the same with Darvish, who needs to get the opportunity to prove he can get the job done in tight spots. Baby birds don’t learn to fly by being protected in the nest until they reach adulthood. Maddon needs to push his ass out. Maybe Darvish flaps and flails and falls on his face, though we saw from his 99 mph heaters that his wing is working just fine.

And if he fails?

So what, the bullpen has already coughed up runs in his stead. A pitcher needs to earn his manager’s trust in order to keep the ball in tight situations, but he can’t earn said trust by being pulled early each time out. Maddon needs to let Darvish prove himself, even if it means choking down his desire to protect the pitcher’t psyche.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just be over yonder with my sword and shovel. If the pursuit of this take eventually kills me, please tell my wife and kids I went down swinging.

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