Darvish dominates for Rangers; offense comes alive late
09/15/2012 12:30 AM
03/24/2013 1:08 AM
ARLINGTON -- The final score Friday night at Rangers Ballpark would indicate the home team had one of those games when opposing pitchers shuddered all night.
The truth is that the Texas Rangers did most of their damage in their last chance at the plate, and they led Seattle by only a run after seven innings.
The seven they scored in the eighth, though, shouldn't overshadow the mound work done in the first seven innings by Yu Darvish, who currently rates as the Rangers' best starting pitcher, and in the eighth by Koji Uehara, who is rallying toward a spot on a playoff roster.
Darvish allowed only two hits and surpassed the 200-strikeout plateau, and Uehara's perfect inning in a key spot preceded an avalanche of runs as the Rangers rolled past the Mariners 9-3.
Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton hit solo homers early on, and Elvis Andrus had a three-run triple to cap a big eighth inning. Andrus started the inning with a double and scored as Hamilton followed with a double of his own.
But Darvish's outing and Uehara's work on a fourth straight day gave the Rangers a chance on a night when their bullpen was nowhere close to full strength.
"I thought Yu was outstanding," manager Ron Washington said. "He made them swing the bat. That was the most important thing.
"We knew what Koji had. It was just a matter of him getting out there seeing the hitters. He's always been a strike-thrower, and he had to get an opportunity to face hitters."
The victory maintained the Rangers' three-game lead over Oakland in the American League West race. Oakland defeated Baltimore 3-2 Friday night.
Uehara took over for Darvish, who had only one hiccup against a team that entered having scored 16 runs in 16 innings against him this season. The Rangers were without closer Joe Nathan, who had worked the previous three games, and setup man Mike Adams, who was out again with a sore right trapezius.
The Rangers led 2-0 after a leadoff homer by Ian Kinsler and a 417-foot blast two innings later by Hamilton, who leads the majors with 42 homers.
Seattle started the fourth with a walk and a double, and Jesus Montero plated a run with a sacrifice fly. But Darvish retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced.
The Rangers, though, were up only 2-1 when Uehara emerged from the bullpen to open the eighth. He needed only nine pitches, each of them a strike, to retire the Mariners in order.
He has retired the last nine batters he has faced and looks nothing like the reliever who pitched his way off the World Series roster last year.
One key has been an evolving split-fingered pitch that has baffled left-handed hitters. But the most important reason behind his success is that he's actually pitching in meaningful situations.
"I feel good, actually," he said. "Now that I'm active and pitching in real games is important for me. That probably is the biggest factor."
Darvish continued his recent run of dominance, polishing off a third straight start with seven innings pitched and three or fewer hits allowed. The only other pitcher to do that in club history is Nolan Ryan.
The key, said Washington, has been Darvish finding the pitches that work as he warms up and sticking with those. On Friday, facing a lineup with eight left-handed hitters, the right-hander used his cutter and slow curveball.
Darvish (15-9) became the 16th rookie since 1900 to record 200 strikeouts, and he did it against his nemesis.
"The difference between going against them tonight and my previous outings, I think, was just throwing strikes," said Darvish, who is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in his past four starts. "Or, more precisely, not feeling like I have to throw strikes. I think that's the difference."
He and Uehara were the difference until the bats came alive, and that shouldn't be overlooked.
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