Rangers’ bats have Yu’s back as calendar turns

Posted Wednesday, May. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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lebreton Yu Darvish on the mound. That meant it was Must-See Baseball at the ballpark Tuesday night.

Faster than you can say sayonara, however, the no-hitter, the shutout and the worry-free night for Darvish and the Texas Rangers all were gone. In the first inning, no less.

He’s Yu-man. Who knew?

Back home in the friendly confines of Randol Mill Road, though, the Rangers’ bats responded with once-familiar thunder. On a rare night when Darvish needed the run support, his teammates showered him with it, busting loose for a 12-hit, 10-6 victory.

The homestand-opening win over the Chicago White Sox raised the Rangers’ record for the month of April to 17-9. Only the Boston Red Sox, 18-8, who come to town Friday, have a better American League record.

It was the poet T.S. Eliot who said, “April is the cruellest month.”

Clearly, he must have been an Angels fan.

Just as a year ago, when the Rangers stormed out of the blocks and won 17 games, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have again dug themselves into an April chasm. The Angels were 8-15, nine games behind at the end of April 2012, and they began play Tuesday seven games off the Rangers’ pace.

Too early to matter? That’s an old bromide for the players to say.

The April games count just as much as the September ones, as the Rangers and Oakland Athletics vividly proved last season. Next time you hear a player or manager Ron Washington dismiss a night’s outcome, remember last year’s lesson:

Each game you win in April is one less that you may have to win in September.

At the end of April last season, the Rangers had a 17-6 record and a 6 1/2-game lead in the AL West. From that day until the end of the regular season, the Rangers played 76-63 baseball.

Good, but not good enough, as it turned out. From May to the end, Oakland went 83-55 and the Angels finished 81-58. The Athletics passed the Rangers on the season’s final day.

April matters. Eliot and the other poets all agree on that.

The pennant-winning Rangers of 2011 similarly enjoyed a hot start, finishing 16-11 in April. A hot, hitting-fueled month of July — they scored 12 or more runs five times — all but decided that season’s AL West.

It’s been a chilly first month this year, however, in more ways than one. The Rangers’ .259 batting average began the night as the sixth-best in the American League. Eight teams had more home runs.

Against Chicago lefty Jose Quintana on Tuesday, the Rangers put five guys in the lineup who were batting .242 or less.

The Rangers have been winning because of their pitching. Their 3.02 team ERA led the major leagues as play began Tuesday. And while it’s fashionable for fantasy leaguers and the national media to tsk-tsk Rangers Ballpark as a hitter’s nirvana, the fact is that the home team’s pitchers had a 2.33 ERA and allowed opponents only a .216 average in the first nine home games.

A lot of that stinginess had been the work of Darvish, the major leagues’ strikeout leader. His 5-1 record after Tuesday’s win properly places him among the league’s elite.

He started shakily Tuesday night, though, unable to locate his fastball. And after appearing to figure things out over the next few innings, he got too cute in the sixth and tried to fool Dewayne Wise, the White Sox’s No. 9 hitter, with a 60 mph curve ball.

Wise’s two-run homer knotted the game briefly at 4-4, and Darvish finished the night with a very pedestrian pitching line of six innings and seven hits and four runs allowed.

It’s April. He probably was overdue for a sloppy performance like this.

The Rangers’ bats, though, clearly happy to be home, covered Darvish’s back on this night.

April showers are supposed to bring May flowers. Another poet once said that.

The Rangers have to hope that they can maintain their early pace this time. No night, as they cruelly learned last season, is less important than another.

May days await.

Or so the calendars say, not the sirens.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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