By the time Yu Darvish finished his pizza, showered, dressed, tipped out the clubbies and arranged his bags early Monday morning, he was the only pitcher left in the frenzied Texas Rangers getaway night clubhouse.
He still had his media obligation, which all starting pitchers know they have to do, and he did. A few media members ducked out on the Darvish postgame briefing, which revealed that he was too amped up in the first few innings after feeling terrific warming up.
A close look at the up-close Star-Telegram video also shows that Darvish needs a shave and probably could trim his bangs. Maybe that will settle him down for his next start Saturday at Toronto.
But he and the Texas Rangers left Comerica Park as winners early Monday morning after a way-too-long Sunday night game (my first act as commissioner would be to ban Sunday Night Baseball).
The Rangers, for those counting at home, have won 11 of 12 games and made up two games on the Houston Astros over the weekend.
It’s still way too early to look at the standings, but those who have taken a peek at them see the Rangers above .500 and 5 1/2 games back in second place in the American League West.
Heading into an off day Monday and considering where they were two weeks ago, they’ll take it.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from Sunday’s 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
1. Darvish clearly has been better than he was in the first two innings, when he needed 56 pitches to record six outs. He wasn’t exactly efficient in getting the next nine, using 49 pitches, but it was improvement.
(Next up on the improvement list: working faster.)
Those 105 pitches in five innings led to an early hook for the Rangers’ ace, who nevertheless left with a 4-2 lead.
Included in Darvish’s messy first two innings were four walks, including one ahead of Miguel Cabrera. That typically isn’t good, and, indeed, Cabrera followed with a game-tying single as Darvish failed to hold a lead for the second time in the game.
To his credit, he didn’t walk a hitter the rest of the way and got Cabrera to bounce out to end a Tigers threat in the fourth.
Curiously, Darvish has faced only one team — Cleveland on Opening Day — this season that currently has a winning record. Detroit was 21-20 entering Sunday, and Anaheim is also now .500.
So, he should be 5-2 with a 2.83 ERA. The Tigers probably rated as his stiffest test of the season, though Oakland is always tough on Darvish and has handed him both losses this season.
But not even Clayton Kershaw is always on. While Darvish is no Kershaw, he’s still rates as one of the game’s best pitchers. Even the best are entitled to some less-than-spectacular outings.
That pretty much sums up Darvish on Sunday.
2. Good things continue to happen within the Rangers’ offense, with Mike Napoli getting healthy again against left-handers and with Nomar Mazara (10-game hitting streak) and Jonathan Lucroy (nine games) finding their footing at the plate.
Delino DeShields is batting .290, Ryan Rua has been more productive and Robinson Chirinos is staying productive.
But the No. 3 hitter Sunday continues to be stuck under the Mendoza Line, and it’s fair to ask when the Rangers might drop Rougned Odor from the middle of their lineup.
He has been batting fifth mostly, but has had games as the cleanup hitter. At .199, Odor hasn’t homered since May 5 and has only three RBIs in the past 14 games.
Odor, by the way, has started all 45 games this season for the Rangers. A day off might serve him well.
Still a power threat after 33 homers last season, he’s being used in spots where he might run into a ball and do some damage. Plus, the Rangers don’t have a ton of candidates to unseat him from the middle of the lineup.
The return of Adrian Beltre could be what ultimately leaves the Rangers comfortable dropping Odor to sixth or seventh. Beltre is a week or two away, so maybe Odor can get hot before then.
Aside from his strong first week, he’s been cold all season.
Kozma now has four career homers as he’s bounced between the majors and the minors. He’s never going to be an everyday player and knows it, but he’s going to fight like hell every time he gets a chance to play.
Lately, that’s been against left-handed pitchers in place of Joey Gallo at third base. Maybe Odor’s struggles get Kozma a game at second base against two of the lefties the Boston Red Sox are going to throw in the three-game series at Fenway Park.
Teams need players like Kozma, veterans who know how to stay sharp at the plate and in the field with limiting playing time. Don’t dismiss the two eighth-inning plays Kozma made at third between tricky hops.
Could Jurickson Profar be doing the same thing as Kozma? Profar is definitely more talented, but the Rangers still think he’s lacking the at-bats to be seasoned enough to stick on the bench.
He also has too much talent to sit. He’s in Triple A playing every day in case the Rangers need him for an everyday role. Kozma wouldn’t get the chance to play every day in case of an injury to an infielder.
So, he’s going to fight like hell and contribute when he can.
He might even pop a homer every four years or so.