The stat line wasn’t too impressive the last time Yu Darvish faced the Boston Red Sox. He gave up six runs on 11 hits with four walks and nine strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings.
But Darvish showed something that start and had a productive meeting with manager Ron Washington the following day. It proved to be a turning point for Darvish, too, as he went 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA over his final eight starts last season.
Darvish has carried that into this season, and is looking for a better result this time against the Red Sox.
“They hit me pretty well last year, so I just don’t want to repeat it this year,” Darvish said through a translator.
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Asked if Boston would a see a different pitcher than last August, Darvish said: “I can’t really comment on that. You’ll have to ask the Boston hitters that after Sunday.”
So far, though, Darvish has shown to be a different pitcher. He is 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA over his first six starts this season, and was selected the Rangers’ player of the month for April.
Part of his success can be traced to his start in Boston in the later half last season. He had given up five runs through the first four innings, but worked into the seventh.
Catcher Geovany Soto, who was paired with Darvish down the stretch, remembered that game well and what he saw toward the end of it.
“I felt like he got into a rhythm and was in tune with all of his pitches,” Soto said. “That’s what happened with him in the final stretch and that’s how he found his poise. It makes it a whole lot easier when you have command of all your pitches.”
Darvish has up to 8-9 pitches on a given night, which gives him the ability to rely on certain pitches different nights. If his four-seam fastball isn’t working as well as he’d like, he can go to his two-seam or slider.
It’s a nice repertoire to have, of course, and the latest example came in Darvish’s last start against the White Sox on Tuesday. Chicago scored two runs in the first inning, but Darvish responded with four scoreless innings before giving up two more runs in the sixth.
The ability to make adjustments early is something that Washington and the Rangers have seen frequently from Darvish, but it still impresses his newest teammates. It even had Derek Lowe drawing comparisons to one of his former teammates when he pitched with the Red Sox, Pedro Martinez.
“He’s a true ace and there are only like 5-8 guys who can say that in the game today,” Lowe said. “Not a No. 1 pitcher, but a true ace. There’s a difference between those two. He’s like Pedro. You have that same feeling every time he steps on the mound that something special could happen.
“And it’s not his fault that he has 7-8 pitches that he can throw at any time for no apparent reason. It’s like when you played Wiffle ball in the backyard and the ball would fly all over the place because of the wind. That’s what he can do with a baseball. He’ll show me how he throws a certain pitch and it’s like his own made-up grip. He taught himself. It’s unbelievable.”