For awhile it looked like a typical Yu Darvish start, because heading into the 7th inning the game was scoreless. But after a botched hit-and-run attempt with no one out, Leonys Martin sprayed a laser over the wall in right to give the Rangers a one-run lead, which was ultimately enough for Darvish, who was particularly stifling on Sunday. Texas tacked on an insurance run in the 8th on a Donnie Murphy single, and Joakim Soria was his usual brilliant self to cap off a 7-4 road trip.
What more can we say about Yu Darvish? After missing a start with an apparent neck issue, today the Nationals offense never really stood a chance, as Darvish punished them with an array of cutters and splitters down in the zone. In 8 innings he induced 12 punch outs -- on only 102 pitches -- and, had the game not been played in an NL park where pitchers still swing bats for some reason, Yu could have pocketed a complete game shutout to boot. But that's really just icing on the cake.
The win propels the Rangers back above .500 by a game, assuring themselves a winning record as they embark on a 9-game home stand.
For Darvish, the win continues what has been an impressive string of starts since May 4th in Anaheim: In five appearances spanning 38.0 innings, he's carrying a 1.66 ERA with a dominant 48:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio, while opponents have produced only 25 hits. More importantly, though, is he's made it through seven innings in four of his last five outings, and gone at least eight innings in three of his last four. We know Yu Darvish has been an ace in Arlington since day one, but it's still a mystery of just how good he will become. He has improved in three successive seasons, is still only in his age-28 season, and has enough weapons in his pitching arsenal to succeed even when his fastball velocity starts diminishing, which won't happen until he's well into his next contract.
Anyway, I'm on a Yu Darvish high.
The Rangers will spend the next 10 days in Texas; after an off-day Monday, they'll take on Baltimore, Cleveland and Miami.