Four of the five starts Yu Darvish has made this season have been against division opponents, and he will be 5 for 6 after the Sunday finale at Angel Stadium.
One of those starts was excellent, two rated as quality starts, and the fourth was the shortest outing of his career. That one, Monday against Oakland, is the Rangers’ lone loss in his five outings.
To many Rangers players, games against American League West foes matter this early in a season, even though many of those same players say that results in April and May don’t matter much.
Darvish, though, tries not to put much extra weight on his shoulders for division games.
“I don’t think there’s a difference in importance,” said Darvish, who enters his 11th career start against the Angels with a 6-1 record and a 3.77 ERA against them. “Whether I pitch within the division or outside the division, what I have to do to prepare for the game is pretty much the same.”
Manager Ron Washington said that Darvish was given the Angels by design, only because the Rangers didn’t want Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison to have to hit Monday and Tuesday in Colorado.
Darvish’s other starts against the AL West have been by coincidence to date. That will change, though, later in the year when a division title could be on the line.
“That’s how you win a division, by winning in your division,” Washington said. “If you can win in your division, you’ve got a chance.”
Rangers pitchers continued their prep work Saturday for interleague play at Colorado by taking multiple rounds of batting practice thrown by future Hall of Fame inductee Greg Maddux, a special assistant to Jon Daniels.
The pitchers will be tasked with mostly bunting this week at Coors Field. But they also worked on the slash play, showing bunt before pulling back and taking a short, quick swing.
Most took the bat all the way back for a full swing.
“No, they don’t understand it,” Washington said. “It’s hard for them because they don’t swing the bat, but you never know when a situation comes up when they have to slash. We at least want them to have some fundamental base to do it.”
Washington said he hasn’t called a slash play since Game 1 of the 2010 World Series, when Cliff Lee doubled.
Daniel Robertson has been with the Rangers for 10 days and has played in only three games, but the outfielder who spent six years in the minor leagues has a fan in his new manager.
“He’s a good kid,” Washington said. “He works hard. He’s into the game. He asks a lot of questions. He’s ready to do whatever you ask him to do, and that should be his attitude. He’s presented an opportunity, and he wants to try to take advantage of it.”
Washington’s favorite part of Robertson’s game, which includes some infield work, is the way he goes into second base to break up a double play. Robertson did it Friday night in the ninth inning, drawing a wry smile from Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick.
“I love the way he goes down and breaks up double plays,” Washington said. “That’s old school. Howie plays like that. He knows.”