Yu Darvish can’t seem to figure out the Oakland A’s. Or, perhaps, the A’s have figured him out.
Either way, Darvish’s woes against the Rangers’ top rival continued Monday night. He struggled with his fastball command, his pitch count rose at an exponential rate and he had his earliest exit in the big leagues as the A’s prevailed in a 4-0 victory over the Rangers.
“They have a really good game plan against me,” said Darvish, who saw his career ERA against the A’s rise to 4.73 after his 3 1/3-inning outing.
“Obviously I was disappointed to throw only three-plus innings, but this is something that happens to any pitcher. What happened, happened. I don’t want to dwell on it.”
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Darvish is now 0-7 in his last eight starts against Oakland. His lone win against the A’s came on May 16, 2012, his first start against them. It’s worth noting he also suffered a pair of 1-0 losses to them last season.
But Darvish never flirted with a win on this night, especially with the offense producing only three singles against A’s right-hander Sonny Gray.
Darvish couldn’t counter that in his second meeting against the A’s in a week. He needed 19 pitches to get through a 1-2-3 first inning and another 20 in a scoreless second. It caught up with him in the third inning with the A’s taking a 2-0 lead.
Darvish issued a one-out walk to Eric Sogard, the A’s No. 9 hitter who entered with a .204 average. Coco Crisp then singled and Jed Lowrie reached on a hit by pitch to load the bases.
Josh Donaldson drove in both runs with a single to left and Brandon Moss kept it going with a single to center to reload the bases. The A’s had Darvish on the ropes, but he escaped.
Darvish uncorked a pitch that got away from catcher Robinson Chirinos, but the ball stayed close enough to keep the runner at third from trying to score. However, Moss broke for second on the play and Chirinos tried to get him going back to first.
Moss was initially ruled safe, but the Rangers challenged and won. On the next pitch, Darvish got Alberto Callaspo to fly out to end the inning and it seemed like Darvish might lock in at that point.
“I thought Darvish was going to lock in from the first pitch he threw, it just never happened,” manager Ron Washington said.
Darvish gave up two more runs in the fourth inning. John Jaso scored on a triple by Josh Reddick, who then came home on a sacrifice fly by Daric Barton.
Another walk to Sogard ended Darvish’s night after a career-low 31/3 innings and 83 pitches. His previous low had been a four-inning start at Seattle on May 21, 2012, the start following his last win against the A’s (May 16, 2012).
Asked if Darvish was given a short hook, Washington said: “You call that a short hook? He had [83 pitches] in four innings. I don’t call that short. It wasn’t going to get any better. We could save those bullets. That’s all that was.”
The Rangers’ bullpen kept it a four-run game. Aaron Poreda got them out of the fourth, and rookie Nick Martinez threw five scoreless innings. Martinez benefited from defensive help in the eighth.
Leonys Martin made a leaping catch at the center-field wall on a deep line drive by Barton and then, upon further review, doubled up Reddick at first base.
But it didn’t matter with the offense being shut down by Gray. The Rangers’ best chance was in the third with runners at first and second with one out, but Michael Choice bounced into a double play.
That began a string of eight consecutive outs by Gray, who went on to retire 19 of the next 21 batters for his first complete-game shutout.
“We just couldn’t get anything going offensively,” Choice said. “He had a little better command today [compared to last week]. He wasn’t as wild. He made good pitches.”