Sports

Rangers see new side of Yu: He's weather-proof

ARLINGTON -- Some people see rain and seek shelter from the impending storm.

Yu Darvish saw rain Friday night -- and went back out to find the rainbow.

Though the giddily hyped, nationally televised showdown between the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim -- and between starting pitchers Darvish and C.J. Wilson, the yin and yang of the building rivalry -- fizzled Friday in less than 30 minutes, there was baseball to be played, as it turned out. And Darvish apparently wanted to be a part of it.

Like crying, there are no umbrellas in baseball. A lengthy, early rain delay, such as Friday's first-inning, 1-hour, 56-minute one, appeared to render it unlikely that the two starters would return to the resumed game.

As lightning sparked overhead, in fact, a quick survey of Japanese media in the press box unearthed the cultural footnote that two-hour rain delays are practically unheard of in NPB, the league where Darvish came from. Rainouts are rainouts.

But as Rangers general manager Jon Daniels explained, "[Darvish] was throwing every 15 minutes or so in the cage to stay loose.

"He hadn't thrown much before the delay, and the staff was on top of it. Plus, he was adamant he wanted to get back out there.

"A little unusual, but we felt comfortable given the circumstances."

Wilson, meanwhile, did not return. Rangers fans will read into that what they will -- the sellout crowd booed when it was announced that Jerome Williams was the Angels' post-rain pitcher -- but C.J. violated no protocols or man-rules. It's hard enough to reach for the TV remote after two hours of sitting, let alone rekindle a cold pitching arm.

But Wilson's brief cameo seemed to set the stage for the Rangers' big night.

After striking out Ian Kinsler to start the bottom of the first, the ex-Ranger watched as Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre all reached base on infield hits. When Wilson walked Michael Young to load the bases, the clouds opened and the game was delayed.

Darvish dearly wants to please. Everything about his work ethic and everything his teammates report about him say as much.

So back out he went to warm up as the tarp was being removed.

The party resumed. And before Darvish threw another pitch, the Rangers had teed off on Williams and turned Wilson's dull start into a six-run first.

It didn't hurt the festive night that Hamilton was again dressed in MVP costume. Two more at-bats in the second and fourth innings, and Hamilton hit two more home runs.

He has hit eight homers in the Rangers' last five games and now has 17, the fastest season-opening home run pace since the Washington Senators' Frank Howard also hit 17 in his team's first 33 games in 1968.

By the time Hamilton's second homer went screaming into the right-field seats in the fourth inning, the home team had a 9-2 lead. The Rangers went on to win 10-3.

Darvish, meanwhile, was dazzling both before and after the storm. Three of the first five Angels he faced struck out swinging. Angels DH Mark Trumbo waved at a third strike that bounced in the dirt two feet outside.

And in his three at-bats against Albert Pujols, the Angels' 10-year, $240 million free agent failed to put a fair ball into play.

Manager Ron Washington lifted Darvish to a standing ovation in the sixth inning. The pitcher's night was finally done, after allowing three hits, three runs, three walks and striking out seven.

It was more than enough.

The much-awaited first showdown, however, between the preseason favorites in the American League West failed to live up to the hype. Surely, the rain had a lot to do with that.

But so did the struggling Angels, who had troubles with Darvish, with Hamilton and occasionally with the ballpark's outfield walls.

Eighteen more games remain between these two teams, and division races are seldom won in the first 33 games of the season.

Pennants, however, aren't won at the baseball winter meetings, either. The Angels "won" those meetings.

The Rangers, we were reminded Friday night, are built for the long storm.

GIL LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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