Is every Yu Darvish start a must-win game for Rangers?

Posted Saturday, Jun. 21, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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Given the state of the Texas Rangers, from the injury blows to their place in the standings, it seems that they’re as close to a must-win scenario as you can get whenever Yu Darvish is on the mound.

He’s their best pitcher, and he’s been their most reliable to put them in position to win. Unless he’s facing Oakland.

Darvish has been the one constant of a rotation that has been without several expected pieces most of the year. But the Rangers aren’t trying to put too much emphasis on Darvish’s starts, although they know it’s important to win them if they still want to make a run this season.

“We always feel good when Yu is on the mound, but we believe in any pitcher in this rotation,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “We know they’re all going to give us a chance to win, not just Darvish. As I always say, we win as a team and we lose as a team.”

Manager Ron Washington echoed those thoughts, but has to be pleased with how his team has played behind Darvish compared with last year. The Rangers have gone 10-3 in Darvish’s 13 starts, a welcome change after going 17-15 in his 32 starts last year.

But Washington downplayed the “must-win” notion.

“It’s a must-win every night,” Washington said. “It’s not a must-win just because Yu Darvish is on the mound. … You don’t just put that on one guy. Yu is our best pitcher, there’s no doubt about that, but he’s not automatic. Nobody in this game is automatic. You don’t know what’s going to happen on a certain day.”

Such as Tuesday in Oakland when Darvish endured more struggles against Oakland. He allowed seven runs (four earned) over five innings in a losing effort, and has still not defeated the A’s since his rookie season.

But Darvish joked that he’s moved past that outing and is ready to get back on track against the Angels on Sunday.

“What are you talking about?” he said. “I don’t remember it. I don’t know where Oakland is.”

Darvish, who is 7-3 with a 2.39 ERA in 13 starts this season, has a better track record against the Angels. He’s 7-1 with a 3.82 ERA over 11 career starts against them with one of his wins coming this season.

Darvish gave up a pair of solo home runs in the first inning during a May 4 start in Anaheim, but settled down over 61/3 innings of what became a 14-3 victory.

Darvish is also aware of where the Rangers sit in the standings. They went into Saturday’s game 11 games back of the A’s in the American League West and four games back in the wild card race.

Those are difficult hurdles to overcome, but Darvish isn’t concerning himself with that yet.

“The only thing I’m focused on is to give the team a chance to win,” Darvish said. “There’s only so much you can do in a start. You can’t win two or three games in one start, you can only win one game, so I want to go as deep in the game as possible.”

Winning when Darvish is on the mound is almost a must at this point for the Rangers and they feel good about their chances. But not only with Darvish on the mound.

Washington’s optimism can be felt throughout the clubhouse.

“We still have a lot of chances to get back in it, and all it takes is a good winning streak to be back in the race,” Andrus said. “That’s the mentality we need to have and the one we do have. We haven’t played our best as a team yet, but I know we have a great team to turn this around and start winning.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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