Everyone in the media likes Sam Onoda, who for years has worked for NHK and followed just about every Japanese player for the Japanese TV network.
Sam loves him some barbecue, so he has been a natural fit covering Yu Darvish with the Texas Rangers. Sam’s fallback job, if his TV work dries up, is to open a Texas barbecue restaurant in Tokyo.
I would travel for that grand opening.
Anyhoo, Sam was in town Friday for the latest Darvish start, so he and I headed over to Jack’s BBQ close to Safeco Field. Jack Timmons is the owner, and he was there while we dined on some darn good barbecue.
Before all of you Texans go nuts, Jack is from Texas and his brisket tastes like it. He also makes beef belly. That’s right: Beef bacon.
Jack knows what he’s doing. As he said, anyone can make ribs and sausage, but no one in Seattle can make brisket the proper way.
The Texas way.
On the baseball field of late, the Texas way has meant lots of bullpen issues.
But the relievers came up big against the Seattle Mariners.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from Friday’s 3-1 win in 13 innings.
Dyson’s struggles have been well-chronicled, and Barnette hasn’t been the same pitcher he was at the end of last season.
Both posted zeroes against the Mariners, with Barnette posted three of them in the ninth, 10th and 11th.
They needed it. The Rangers need them.
Barnette probably won’t be available to pitch again until Monday, but Dyson could be called upon Saturday. The outs he recorded were loud ones, and there was a walk and a hit mixed in, but he’ll take a zero after all he’s been through this season.
The chaos his flop at closer continues to be felt even though he isn’t the closer. The Rangers don’t have a lock-down eighth-inning reliever who could maybe bridge the final out of the seventh.
Maybe Dyson becomes that guy if he locks back in. Maybe Barnette learns more late-inning chances if he can hold onto the form he showed Friday.
He said the key for him was pitching with a quicker tempo and throwing strike one. It’s pretty amazing what a pitcher can accomplish when he has the advantage in the count and isn’t walking hitters left and right.
Manager Jeff Banister said the outing could push Barnette in the right direction.
“I went to him after his outing and said, ‘Hey, I think you found something there,’ “ Banister said.
Dyson might have, too. Despite all the apprehension that surrounds him as soon as he starts to warm, that would be a key development.
The Rangers need him and Barnette.
2. Darvish had one strikeout through three scoreless innings, an unusually low number for him, but had thrown only 38 pitches. That’s also an unusually low number.
Through five, Darvish had two strikeouts and was at 68 pitches. He had allowed five hits and two walks.
To that point, it was a vastly different Darvish than in his last start six days ago, when he threw 125 pitches in six innings and struck out 10. It was, from a entertainment perspective, vastly less entertaining.
But then the sixth happened, when Darivsh had to sweat a little more with two on with two out and a 3-1 count to Danny Valencia. Darvish went slider, slider to get the strikeout, perhaps his two nastiest pitches of the game at the biggest time.
Then came the seventh, when the Mariners put the go-ahead run at third with one out after a leadoff walk, sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch. Darvish threw another nasty slider to strike out Jarrod Dyson, then fell behind Jean Segura 3-1 before getting him to fly out on the ninth pitch of the at-bat.
“In the past I struggled pitching in Seattle, the stadium,” Darvish said. “In the bullpen today, it wasn’t good at all. It was kind of like walking a tightrope, but I was able to battle through the seventh. So, that was really good.”
Darvish threw his slider 46 percent of the time and used his off-speed pitches 58 percent of the time. He had to do what he had to do.
“I was struggling to throw strikes with the fastball, so I had to throw my slider just to get strikes. That was the best pitch I had the feel for today. I had to go with what I had the best today, and if I give up a hit, it is what it is.”
Darvish was done after allowing one run, on a Robinson Cano homer, in seven innings and 116 pitches. He gave the Rangers what they needed — a start deep into the game to give the overworked bullpen a bit of a break.
Then the game went extra innings. So, so much for that.
3. The offense returned to its late-April form against Yovani Gallardo, who entered with a 5.08 ERA in five starts. The Fort Worth resident and member of the 2015 Rangers rotation allowed one run on four hits in six innings, and the Rangers had only six hits through 12 innings.
The one run they did score off Gallardo should have never scored. Ben Gamel just flat missed an Elvis Andrus flyball down the right-field line with two outs in the first and with Delino DeShields at second.
The umps initially called it a foul ball, but replays showed the ball grazing Gamel’s glove before hopping out of play. The call was reversed, and the gift ground-rule double gave the Rangers the game’s first run.
Andrus deserves a round of applause after collecting half of the Rangers’ six hits before Rougned Odor’s two-run homer. DeShields had two more, both in his first two at-bats, and he walked ahead of Odor’s game-winner.
Odor, by the way, overcame the jinx put on him by the beat writers, who quizzed him at length pregame about his hot streak that had stretched all the way to two games. He was 0 for 5 without a ball leaving the infield before going deep.
The Rangers struck out 10 times for the sixth straight game, a club record. No. 10 didn’t come until the 13th inning, though, so that rates as an improvement.
But other than that, the offense returned to its late-April form.
4. Of all of those questioned during the 11th inning and after the game, none had seen what happened to the Mariners’ pitching staff in the 11th. Not one, but two pitchers were injured and had to leave the game, and they had to leave within the matter of two pitches.
Jean Machi was the first to go down after a two-out walk to Carlos Gomez. He had a nerve issue in his thumb. Evan Marshall entered, warming on the field, but he apparently didn’t get loose enough.
His hamstring went on his second pitch, so Emilio Pagan had to come in and warm up on the field.
The delays were part of a game that lasted 5 hours, 2 minutes. The 13 innings had something to do with the length of the game, but so did four challenges and just overall slow pace of Darvish and Gallardo.
Thank goodness for the intentional walk rule, which saved at least 45 seconds in the 10th inning.
But it couldn’t save the Star-Telegram from beating a system-wide shutdown for computer maintenance. The computers went dark at 2:30 CDT for three hours, so that’s why you early birds and night owls couldn’t get this piece of brilliant writing and two other stories until just before sun up.
Call the commissioner’s office with any complaints.