July 21, 2012

Darvish, Rangers' bats back in business with 9-2 romp

Catcher Yorvit Torrealba's early tip helps Yu Darvish subdue the Angels and rebuild Texas' lead to six games.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Yorvit Torrealba, still sleep-deprived after the birth of his daughter last week, made an alert decision before the Texas Rangers took the field for the first time Saturday.

The catcher told his battery mate, Yu Darvish, that it was the second inning, with the goal of putting the right-hander into the mindset he has taken into all other innings this season except the first.

His ERA in the first inning was 6.88 entering Saturday. It was 3.42 over the other eight.

Darvish, apparently, bought in.

He registered a perfect first frame and showed early that he could command his fastball. The zero came after he had been handed an early lead, and it gave Rangers hitters a chance to quickly strike for more.

They did, en route to their highest run total since late June as the Rangers powered their way to a 9-2 victory over Los Angeles.

Mike Napoli hit home runs in his first two at-bats, and the Rangers went deep five times as Darvish registered his first win in nearly a month.

But the tone was set by Darvish early on.

"The first inning the last couple outings was kind of hard," Torrealba said. "So, right before the game started, I said, 'Hey, the first inning's over. We're going to start from the second inning.' That's the mentality I want him to have."

The victory pushed the Rangers' lead in the American League West back to six games with one more remaining tonight against the second-place Angels.

The path was started early as Michael Young delivered a first-inning run with a two-out single. Darvish (11-6) needed only 12 pitches to put away the first three Angels hitters.

"That set the tone right there," manager Ron Washington said.

The Rangers needed only the first nine pitches of the second to put away the Angels.

Napoli connected on the first pitch of the inning, and Torrealba followed two pitches later with a homer to center field. Craig Gentry doubled on the fourth pitch he saw, and Ian Kinsler collected another double two pitches later for a 4-1 lead.

Adrian Beltre ended Ervin Santana's day two batters later with the Rangers' third homer of the inning, a two-run shot to left-center.

"Our offense is capable of doing that kind of stuff," Napoli said. "We've got a lot of guys who can drive the ball all over the park. We showed some fire and put up runs early."

Napoli added another solo shot with one out in the third, and Torrealba followed with the second of three hits in his first game since he and his wife welcomed Ashley Valentina on Tuesday.

"A couple of the guys after I hit the home run, said, 'This is for the baby,'" Torrealba said. "It was fun. We won, that was the main thing."

The main thing for the Rangers was Darvish's ability to command his fastball. He used it primarily the first time through the Angels' lineup before mixing in more off-speed pitches.

He finished with 11 strikeouts for the fourth time this season, and his majors-leading sixth double-digit strikeout game also established a Rangers record for 10-strikeout games by a rookie.

The performance came a week after he allowed a career-high seven runs, including four in the first, at Seattle. He made some adjustments with his delivery to harness his control, though the only Angels runs scored after two of the four walks he issued.

"The difference is more myself," said Darvish, who held the middle of the Angels' order hitless in nine at-bats. "I was able to make minor adjustments very well. The fastball felt good to me.... Beating a very good offensive team like the Angels, naturally, it gives me confidence."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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