Yu Darvish Continues To Impress For Texas Rangers Despite Hard-Luck Loss

By Thom Tsang
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Yu Darvish is doing so well these days, he even makes losses look impressive.

Yes, the Texas Rangers were unable to prevent the second loss in what’s now a two-game skid against the divisional rival Oakland Athletics on Tuesday, but as you can probably tell by the 1-0 score, very little of that defeat could be pinned on the team’s ace.

Rather, Darvish might have been the only reason why the team was even in it to begin with.

The right-hander wasn’t perfect by any means, but considering that he threw six solid innings allowing just a run on five hits and three walks, with the only damage coming in the form of a Yoenis Cespedes home run, you could make the argument that he gave the Rangers exactly what they needed to win the game.

Pitchers duels do happen, however, and on this particular night, the Japanese star fell short against an unlikely hero in Athletics starter Dan Straily, who simply silenced the Rangers.

There were some thoughts that throwing 130 pitches in his last start might have a lasting effect on Darvish in this outing, but that turned out not to be the case as he manage to throw 101 pitches, topping the century mark for the eighth consecutive time in 2013 (he’s only missed it once back on April 7).

If you were to nitpick at his performance, you could say that despite notching five more strikeouts in his six innings, the 26-year-old also gave up three walks, most notably in the sixth inning when he worked himself into a bit of trouble with consecutive free passes to Josh Donaldson and Seth Smith.

But, considering the quality of his pure stuff, Darvish is definitely one of those pitchers who can work around it, as Chris Young found out when he ended the threat on a GIDP on the third straight slider he saw.

And what stuff it has been this year, too. Using a fantastically balanced six-pitch repertoire (more if you consider his ability to change speeds in some of his offerings) to keep batters off-balanced, the right-hander’s .178 BAA and fantastic 15.1 percent swinging strike rate tells you just how much ability he has to make hitters look silly.

He’ll give up his share of hits, of course, but the fact that he’s been so difficult to hit hard (14.7 percent line drives) means that opposing lineups have a hard time sustain anything against him. Outside of the homer (1.08 HR/9) threats are often eliminated quickly, as the Athletics found out today in a narrow victory.

Darvish might have taken the loss on Tuesday because of that one flaw, but if anything, all it demonstrated was that when the uncharacteristically-high 15.4 HR/FB rate comes down to earth, it’s going to be plain scary just how good he can be.

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