What exactly went down Tuesday night in Oakland? Yu Darvish dominated the Oakland A’s for five innings, allowing one hit in the process. He threw just 56 pitches and faced the minimum in the stretch.
Then came the sixth inning. The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the top of the inning before Darvish returned to the mound.
He walked the lead-off hitter and after getting a fly out, surrendered a game-tying two-run homer to former Rangers utility player Adam Rosales. A double and another walk later and that was it. Darvish was gone. Manager Jeff Banister looked at pitching coach Doug Brocail, who nodded in agreement, yes, take him out. The A’s added two more runs against the bullpen and evened the series with a 4-2 win.
Although Darvish had only thrown 82 pitches (15 fewer pitches than his previous low this season), Banister and Brocail had seen enough. In the first five innings, Darvish got ahead with first-pitch strikes to 11 of 15 batters. In the sixth? First-pitch strikes to one of five batters.
“He went out there with his off-speed and didn’t fare well,” Brocail said. “I was ready for him to come out of the game.”
Darvish even seemed dumbfounded by the turn of events. Here’s a Rashomon-styled Rangers reaction to help explain one of the odder nights in Yu Darvish’s Rangers’ career:
1. More from Brocail — “The first five innings he got away with a lot of stuff,” Brocail said. “He didn’t pitch [inside] at all.”
Brocail said Darvish didn’t attack enough with his fastball from the start, not just in the sixth.
“I’m saying you can’t allow late in a game for guys to dive [swing across the plate],” he said. “I thought his delivery sped up in the sixth. His tempo was phenomenal 1 through 5. I preach to these guys, if you don’t pitch in it will haunt you and it came back and haunted us tonight.”
2. Oakland’s Bruce Maxwell — Did Darvish get tired?
“You know, I don’t think so. I think he tried to be cute. He was dominating us in the first 4-5 innings. But we got a little more patient with him, starting putting balls in play. I think he was trying to beat around the bush a little bit instead of just coming after us like he was in the first couple innings. Maybe he got comfortable with that two-run lead.”
3. Yu’s thoughts — Darvish threw 56 pitches through five innings, 40 of which were strikes. In the sixth inning, he threw 15 balls and 11 strikes. Again, innings 1-5 16 balls. Against five batters in the sixth: 15 balls.
“The lead-off walk obviously that hurt. Against Rosales I was pitching to contact but I didn’t locate it and he took advantage of it,” Darvish said. Still, Darvish said he was surprised when Banister gave him in the hook with the game tied at 2-2 and two runners on.
“I thought I was in a good place, I knew I was pitching a lot in that inning but the pitch count was 80-something. I thought he was coming out to talk to me. It was something I didn’t expect,” he said. “Everything just happened. I really didn’t know what happened. It happened quick.
4. Banister’s assessment — Banister said it was a challenging decision to pull Darvish, considering how quickly he has breezed through the first five innings.
“You’d love for your No. 1 guy out there to have an opportunity to work through those kinds of situations but we just felt like he was at 26 pitches in the inning, however, the look of it didn’t present itself to let him continue,” he said. “We were in a situation where we needed some quick outs.”
Did Darvish alter his approach with a two-run lead?
“I’m not going to get into the mind of a pitcher in that regard. I trust our guys are out there trying to pitch aggressively the entire time. I don’t second guess any of that,” he said. “The walk early where he had really been pounding the strike zone. Those can be really challenging. I don’t like to say he lost aggressiveness as much as maybe he lost some feel for the baseball.”