The woo was silenced by the Yu.
Darvish’s dominance kept a smallish crowd of 25,698 mostly silent as he again put together a dazzling performance in Houston.
Remember, Darvish twice took no-hitters into the eight and ninth innings at MMP in 2013. But that was a rebuilding (re: horrible) Astros’ lineup that didn’t evoke much fear in opposing pitchers. The 2017 Astros, of course, with their major league best 44-21 record and all, are a different story.
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But Darvish, who took the loss against the Astros on June 2 in Arlington, stayed one pitch ahead of them through seven innings. He walked three and struck out only four but only one Astros got past first base against him. Make no mistake, with or without a slew of strikeouts, Darvish dominated.
Here’s a few more thoughts on Darvish and Nomar Mazara’s moon shot that capped the win and may have put a dent in the center field shrubbery:
1. Seamless two-seamer — Catcher Robinson Chirinos called Darvish’s two-seam fastball Monday night the best he’s seen from the right-hander. Darvish pounded right-handed hitters inside with it and then kept them off-balance with his curve ball. The three-run homer he allowed on June 2 to Carlos Correa came on a slider left out over the plate. On Monday, Darvish didn’t throw a slider until the sixth inning.
“It worked against those guys who have faced Yu many times,” Chirinos said. “Our plan today was to do something different.”
In the past, Darvish would often rely on a fastball away to both right-handed and left-handed hitters. He did the opposite Monday night, Chirinos said. Darvish has been working on improving his two-seamer the past three weeks and appears to now have the confidence necessary to use it at will.
“It was late-moving ... it’s giving him confidence,” Chirinos said. “He knows he can go to that pitch now when he needs to. That’s kind of the goal we had when we started working on that pitch. I think it’s going to get better and better.”
2. The Park that Yu rules — Darvish has a history of dominating outings at Minute Maid Park. True, some of his more outstanding starts in Houston came when the Astros were the worst team in the majors in 2013. Darvish has four starts in his career when he went at least seven innings and held the opponent to one or zero hits, including Monday night, and they’re all against the Astros. Three of them have come at MMP. To put that dominance into context, consider this: Only one other pitcher since 1913 has held the same club to one or zero hits over seven innings in four different starts. Bob Feller did it against the Red Sox and Orioles.
“I think with the stuff he had tonight, it doesn’t matter where he was pitching. He was unbelievable,” Chirinos said. “When you don’t have any mistakes you’re going to have a good night.”
3. Big blast from Big Chill — Nomar Mazara gave an otherwise tight game some breathing room with a three-run homer to dead center in the eighth inning. It came on the first pitch from Astros’ reliever Dayan Diaz, a right-hander he had never faced. Mazara expected a breaking ball on the first pitch and he got slider. He ripped it 109 mph and 430 feet, according to Statcast, into the grass shrubbery beyond the center field wall. Without the wall there, the ball might make it to Humble.
“I was looking for something middle in and he threw a slider and I got a pretty good swing on it,” Mazara said. “I hit it pretty good. I haven’t watched it yet, but I might soon.”
Just click on that hyperlink, Nomar, it’s waiting for you.