In my ongoing fascination with Yu Darvish during his MLB rookie season, I am continually enraptured in the performance that he is delivering on the field. Even when Darvish pitches poorly, I still find it intriguing. Everything that he does is notable in my eyes, and it is an enjoyable experience to witness the former Japanese MVP adapt, struggle, and dominate at the highest echelon of baseball in the world.
On Tuesday night, Darvish faced the Detroit Tigers for the second time. Entering the game, when pitching against a team for the second time Darvish had been 1-3 with a 6.53 ERA. He finished Tuesday’s game after seven innings pitched, having allowed four runs, but also giving up just four hits, a walk, and a HBP while striking out ten Tiger batters. All ten strikeouts were swinging strikeouts. The one walk (not counting the HBP) marked the first time this year that Darvish has given out less than two free passes in a game. He leads the American League in walks with 50 on the year.
Darvish worked around some trouble at the start of the game. The walk and the HBP both came in the first three batters, and were followed by a 2-run double by Prince Fielder. Darvish needed 29 pitches to finish the first, but just 84 to finish the next six innings. Darvish collected a season high 19 swings-and-misses on the night, an incredible nine of which came on his slider, by far his best pitch of the evening.
Darvish has now thrown 110 pitches or more 10 times this season. All other Rangers starting pitchers have accomplished that feat 12 times, combined. Darvish has thrown less than 100 pitches just four times, never failing to reach 90 pitches in an outing. His endurance will be tested as the 100-degree weather days have begun to roll consistently in Texas, but so far he has proven up to the challenge. In most of his outings, he appears to only get stronger as the game continues on. Darvish now has a 4.82 ERA in the first four innings of games, and a 2.20 ERA from the 5th inning on.
A victory on Tuesday pushed Darvish’s record on the season to 10-4, equaling fellow starter Matt Harrison, and giving the Rangers the first duo of pitchers with double-digit wins. David Price is the only other AL starter with 10 wins.
Darvish also reached double-digit strikeouts in a game for the fourth time on the year. Only R.A. Dickey has also accomplished that feat in 2012. Darvish is third in the AL in strikeouts with 106 on the year. However, he is the fastest Texas Rangers player to ever reach the 100 strikeout plateau, having done so in 15 games.
Every Yu Darvish start produces an enormous quantity of interesting facts and tidbits, none of which even do justice to the privilege of watching Darvish hone his craft on the mound. There is a long road ahead of him, but he has already shown the willingness to learn, the desire to get better, and the competitive spirit necessary to be a top shelf starting pitcher for many years to come.
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