HOUSTON — Yu Darvish kept turning his head as balls clanked off the outfield wall or soared over it.
He had never pitched fewer than three innings in 135 previous big league outings. In his World Series debut, he got just five outs and left with a four-run deficit in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 5-3 loss to the Houston Astros on Friday night.
“It’s not like I slack in between outings, like I was real prepared,” he said through a translator after leaving the Dodgers in a 2-1 Series deficit. “I guess like I really didn’t have like enough time to make an adjustment.”
If Los Angeles is to win the World Series, the Dodgers will have to do it at home for the first time since 1963 — and with a bullpen that has covered 13 1/3 innings over the past two games.
Ahead of his start, Darvish joked he should receive a gracious greeting because he wore a “Houston Strong” T-shirt last month to raise money for hurricane relief.
“Maybe I can use a ball that doesn’t have much pop in it,” he said through a translator.
Houston had enough pop to keep the ornamental train above Minute Maid Park’s left-field wall sounding its whistle often.
Darvish threw 49 pitches and had just one swing and miss — by Carlos Correa on a 97.5 mph fastball in the first inning. There was also a missed bunt attempt by Marwin Gonzalez before his run-scoring single in the second.
“The execution of his off-speed pitches was not as crisp as we’ve seen it,” Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. “All of those pitches not getting into the location with the break that he’s accustomed to, they kept the inning going.”
The 31-year-old Japanese right-hander seemed amped up. His fastball averaged 94.7 mph during the season, according to Brooks Baseball, but with higher velocity against the Astros, his slider flattened.
“Nobody gets into a big game like this and doesn’t have, I’m sure, the adrenaline and stuff,” Honeycutt said.
“I don’t see that,” he said.
He played down a racist gesture made as he left the mound by Houston’s Yuli Gurriel, who had homered for the Astros’ first run.
“You just disrespect all the people around the world,” Darvish said, adding: “He made a mistake and then we’re just going to learn from it. We are all human beings.”
Acquired from Texas at the July 31 trade deadline, Darvish had been 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in a pair of postseason starts, winning Game 3s against Arizona in the Division Series and the Cubs in the League Championship Series.
But he seemed out of sort right from the start against Houston, falling behind leadoff hitter George Springer 3-1 and allowing a double.
Gurriel drove a slider into the left field Crawford Boxes opening the second , and Josh Reddick doubled to left for his first extra-base hit in 49 plate appearances this postseason — the third extra-base hit off Darvish among the Astros’ first six batters.
“The fastball command wasn’t there, and the slider was backing up,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “So he just really didn’t have the feel and couldn’t get any type of rhythm going.”
Evan Gattis walked and Gonzalez hit a 373-foot single off the left-field wall for a 2-0 lead. Brian McCann lined an RBI single into right and Alex Bregman hit a sacrifice fly with one out, and after Jose Altuve’s double Darvish was done for the day , skirting the edge of the World Series logo as he walked to the third-base dugout.
“He didn’t have it tonight,” Corey Seager said. “He grinded. He battled. Just didn’t have it. That happens sometimes.”
Yasiel Puig also had a bad day. With Los Angeles trailing 4-1 in the fourth, he singled down the third-base line, ran past first, slowed to almost a stop, then noticed the ball was bounding off the low wall. He then started for second and was thrown out by Correa.
Reliever Tony Watson added his own errant moment, throwing Gattis’ chopper past first baseman Cody Bellinger in the fifth, allowing Reddick to score from first base on what was ruled an infield hit and a two-base error.
Bellinger went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts , leaving him hitless in 11 at-bats with seven strikeouts over the three games,
“We had probably the worst fundamental game that we’ve played in a while and it was still a super close game,” Bellinger said. “And we’re going to take that into tomorrow. If we play normal Dodger baseball we’re going to go out and have an opportunity to beat these guys.”
Enrique Hernandez looked back at the Dodgers’ season as a source of strength, using some hyperbole when he recalled a year that included, nine-, 10- and 11-game winning streaks along with an 11-game skid.
“We’ve been through it all,” he said. “We’ve had I think it was three 10-game winning streaks or something like and we also had like a 30-game losing streak. It’s all about how you come back the next day, and we’ve done a pretty good job all year long with forgetting about yesterday and worrying about today.”
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