If Yu Darvish knew the reason he struggles in the first inning, he would do something about it. But he doesn’t.
The first inning has always been the most difficult for Darvish in his brief big-league career. He has a career 6.08 ERA in the first inning, including a 9.00 ERA in the first inning this season.
Darvish had issues in the first inning in his last start, against the D’backs on Monday. He gave up two runs in the first, but then settled into a zone before allowing two more runs on a homer in the eighth.
“I don’t know a pitcher who is perfect those first innings,” Darvish said through a translator.
Darvish also didn’t elaborate on potential reasons for his high home run total, as he’s allowed nine so far. He gave up 14 total last year.
Regardless of his first-inning and home run numbers, Darvish has still put together a dominant start to the season. He is 7-2 with a 3.03 ERA and a league-leading 105 strikeouts in his first 11 starts going into Sunday’s outing against Kansas City.
Darvish said he has a more defined routine in his second season, which has helped him relax more than in his rookie season.
“There were times last year where I thought the fifth day was coming so soon, but I don’t feel that this year,” Darvish said.
Alexi Ogando said he had no issues the day after his medical rehabilitation start at Double A Frisco, and is expected to rejoin the rotation on the upcoming road trip. However, a date has not been determined.
The Rangers will wait for Ogando to go through his bullpen session Sunday , and then make that call.
“Until he goes through his bullpen and we’re pleased with it, then we’ll set it up,” manager Ron Washington said.
Ogando could come back to the rotation as early as Wednesday in Boston, but Thursday in Boston or Friday in Toronto seem more likely.
If Ogando returned Thursday, it would give Nick Tepesch and Yu Darvish an extra day of rest.
“There are always guys who can use an extra day,” Washington said.
Cruz still producing
Nelson Cruz provides a presence in the Rangers’ lineup, as he can change a game with one swing of the bat. He did it Friday with a three-run homer in the third, and he has hit five of the Rangers’ 10 homers of three or four runs.
It was Cruz’s seventh homer of May, passing his April total of six. Cruz also finished the month with 19 RBIs, equaling his April total. However, one significant difference between the two months was batting average — he batted .295 in April but only .216 in May.
“I did damage in clutch situations, so sometimes you have to look at it in a positive way,” Cruz said. “I did good damage when the team needed it, so that’s one of the most important things.”
Fun and games
Elvis Andrus had it all set up for how the Rangers would greet Adrian Beltre after his solo homer in the seventh inning Friday. Andrus would distract Beltre, giving manager Ron Washington an opportunity to irritate Beltre by taking his helmet off.
But it didn’t work.
“Beltre was on it,” Washington said, shaking his head. “He knew right away. I tried, but I missed. I wish I would’ve come off with it.”
The fun and games rolled into Saturday, too, with a pregame cow-milking contest and egg toss between the Rangers and Royals.
The Rangers lost both events, as veteran cow-milking contestant Robbie Ross couldn’t defeat Royals catcher George Kottaras in the 90-second challenge. And Justin Grimm and Derek Holland cracked their egg before the Royals’ team of Chris Getz and Elliot Johnson.
Briefly• Adrian Beltre was voted the Rangers’ player of the month for May. He batted .376 (44 for 117) with six home runs, 10 doubles, 23 RBIs and 20 runs in the month, and had four four-hit games. It’s the fourth time he’s won the award.
• Only scattered singles and obstructed view tickets remained for Sunday’s game as of Saturday afternoon. Standing-room only tickets go on sale this morning.