When Yu Darvish is struggling, he’s often his own worst enemy on the mound.
The Texas Rangers’ ace had shaky command early against the Houston Astros on Saturday evening at Minute Maid Park, and it hurt him.
The Rangers dropped their seventh straight to Houston, 8-3. The loss clinched a third straight series win for Houston over Texas.
Darvish’s struggles were evident from the first batter he faced. Robbie Grossman worked a 10-pitch walk and moved to second on a wild pitch.
After getting Jason Castro looking at a breaking ball for the first out, Darvish walked Chris Carter on four pitches.
Darvish recovered to strike out Marc Krauss, but singles by Jon Singleton and Matt Dominguez gave the Astros a 2-0 lead after a 31-pitch first inning.
Although Darvish rebounded adequately the next three innings, his fate was sealed as his pitch count mounted. He threw 24 more pitches in the third despite facing only four batters.
He walked Singleton before striking out the final two batters to end the inning, but he had run his pitch count to 73 through three innings.
By the fifth inning, Darvish was spent and the Astros pounced. The first five hitters reached, including a two-run double by Singleton and a run-scoring single by Dominguez to knock Darvish from the game.
“Yu Darvish is human. He can have a bad night,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I’m not going to search around for reasons. He’s always found a way to right the ship. He just couldn’t find that one pitch in his arsenal that usually he can go to and get things going in the right direction; it just didn’t happen for him tonight.”
The four-inning stint is Darvish’s shortest outing since going 3 1/3 on April 28. He also had a 4 1/3-inning, rain-shortened game last month at New York.
“We were trying to find what worked,” catcher Geovany Soto said. “He just fell behind a couple hitters, which is off character for him. But he’s been unbelievable for us, and he’s entitled to have some bad games. When your command is a bit off, you get frustrated.”
Darvish (10-7) struck out seven, walked four, and allowed six runs (five earned). The Astros are the first team to score six runs against Darvish in consecutive games. Houston scored six against him July 9 in Arlington.
“It was really difficult to locate my fastball and my breaking ball wasn’t crisp, so overall I had a poor outing today,” said Darvish, who was coming off two consecutive quality starts where he had held opponents to three runs in 14 innings. “Whenever I have an outing like this I try to find a reason, and I think I have one.”
Scott Feldman, who pitched with the Rangers for eight seasons, held Texas (45-71) to three hits through the first five innings. He retired eight in a row until Elvis Andrus led off the sixth with a single. Andrus was called out for runner’s interference on Daniel Robertson’s grounder to second after running into Astros second baseman Gregorio Petit.
Later in the inning, Jim Adduci’s first career home run with two outs pulled the Rangers to within 6-2. Feldman (6-8) held Texas to three runs in 6 1/3 innings.
The Astros (49-68) added runs in the bottom of the sixth and in the eighth. Houston is 8-3 against Texas in 2014 with eight games remaining, including Sunday’s series finale.
Shin-Soo Choo tied a career-high with four hits, the last coming in the ninth inning, the 1,000th of his career.