August 28, 2012

One run is all Darvish needs

Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish escaped trouble twice in his best outing since April, striking out ten and holding the Tampa Bay Rays scoreless over seven innings.

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington tries his best to not stray too far from the next game, but he couldn't help himself after watching Yu Darvish on Tuesday night.

That wasn't the same Darvish who struggled in July and early August, or the one who looks like a Class A pitcher whenever he faces offensively challenged Seattle.

Washington has seen a pitcher over his past few starts who has shed the expectations that he brought with him from Japan and is trying to pitch for his team and himself.

Darvish was so good against Tampa Bay that Washington believes he will be a force going forward as long as he continues to live up only to his own expectations.

Darvish struck out 10 over seven innings, and Ian Kinsler provided the game's only run with a homer to start the fourth inning as the Rangers squeaked past the Rays.

The victory, the Rangers' third 1-0 win at Rangers Ballpark this season, kept Oakland 5 1/2 games back in the American League West standings. The Rangers have won six of their past seven games to move a season-high 25 games above .500 (77-52).

"I expect to pitch well," Darvish said. "That's my job. I'm just happy overall that my pitching led to a victory."

Washington sees more victories ahead for Darvish, who set a Rangers rookie record with his 13th victory. The right-hander is challenging hitters more and has stopped fretting over all the walks he has issued.

Darvish (13-9) walked only two Rays and scattered six hits. He pitched out of trouble in the second and fourth innings.

His success in those situations tells Washington that Darvish had turned a corner.

"Finally he decided in his mind that he's just going to go out there and compete," Washington said.

"He was carrying a lot of baggage, and he's done dumped the baggage. He was trying to impress a ton of people. Right now the only thing he's concerned about is impressing Yu Darvish. Once he does that, it impresses everyone else."

Darvish, who leads the major leagues with eight games with at least 10 strikeouts, couldn't agree more.

"As my manager said, I'm just focusing on pitching, competing against the hitters, not worrying about the outside stuff or even giving up walks," Darvish said. "I'm just pitching right now."

Darvish escaped trouble twice in his best outing since holding New York scoreless over 8 1/3 innings April 24.

The Rays had runners at second and third with no outs in the second, but Darvish wiggled free with a strikeout of Carlos Pena, a shallow fly ball by Ryan Roberts and a grounder to second by Jose Lobaton with Darvish covering first.

The Rays loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but Darvish again snuck away cleanly after getting Lobaton to bounce into a 3-6-1 double play in which Darvish just stayed on the bag on a relay from Elvis Andrus.

"In that situation, I didn't mind giving up one run or even two," said Darvish, who missed his last start because of tightness in his right quadriceps. "I just focused on making good pitches."

James Shields, meanwhile, faced the minimum through three innings, erasing a David Murphy walk with a pickoff. The Rangers had only two hits against him other than Kinsler's 16th homer -- singles by Geovany Soto and Andrus.

Tampa Bay had another chance in the eighth after Darvish exited. Sam Fuld singled off Mike Adams and stole second base with one out. But Adams fanned Evan Longoria, who went 0 for 4, and Mitch Moreland made a nice stop on a one-hop smash by Ben Zobrist.

"That was huge right there," Washington said. "You can't say enough about what the defense and the pitching did, and it only took one run."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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