Start No. 2 of the Yu Darvish Comeback Tour on Friday night wasn’t the same smashing success as his 2016 debut was last week, or at least the numbers weren’t.
He admitted that he didn’t feel as good as he did six days earlier. He had to pitch differently, relying on his off-speed pitches more against a good fastball hitting team and a lineup that, even though he missed last season, had five hitters with at least 11 career major-league at-bats against him and two hitters who faced him in Japan.
But Darvish pitched deeper into the game and threw more pitches than he did last week. The fastball was there when he needed it, topping out a career-high 99 mph.
In the end, the start was a success where it mattered most.
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Darvish allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings, and Adrian Beltre hit a three-run homer in the first inning and drove in five runs as the Texas Rangers opened a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners with a 7-3 victory.
“When I got off the mound, I was thinking, ‘Man, I gave up three runs,’ ” Darvish said. “But I got to the clubhouse and then I realized they have a good lineup and they’ve been scoring a lot of runs and they’re hitting well. So, I guess I pitched well. That’s how I felt.”
88 Pitches Friday for right-hander Yu Darvish in his second start since Tommy John surgery, seven more than in his debut
Darvish (2-0) threw 88 pitches, seven more than he did in five innings May 28 against Pittsburgh, and felt he could have gotten Da-Ho Lee to end the sixth when he saw manager Jeff Banister come to the mound to replace him.
Whereas last week Darvish said that he was mentally finished after five innings, he didn’t want to leave Friday.
“I’ve got no problem with that,” Banister said. “When a supreme competitor is out on the mound and he’s batting, I get that. I like that. We want that. Believe me: He’s going to get those opportunities.”
Darvish allowed six hits and finished with five strikeouts, including buddy Norichika Aoki in a key spot in the fifth. Jurickson Profar followed with a diving stop on a Seth Smith liner to save a run and end the inning.
The only walk Darvish allowed turned into the Mariners’ first run in the third inning.
“In the first outing I was feeling a little better,” Darvish said. “But today I got the key outs when I needed. So, overall it went well.”
Darvish also pitched with an early lead thanks to the top of the lineup. The first four hitters combined to go 10 for 16 with three walks and seven runs, and they started early with Ian Desmond and Nomar Mazara reaching via a single and a walk with one out in the first.
Beltre was next, and he cleared the wall in left field for a 3-0 lead. He made it 5-1 in the third with a double after Desmond and Mazara opened with a single and a walk.
To give him run support, I know that can’t be a good feeling for the opponent when he’s sitting on a three-run lead.
Center fielder Ian Desmond on Yu Darvish
Leadoff man Profar got in the act in the fourth with a solo homer. He went 2 for 5, Desmond went 4 for 5, Mazara was 2 for 3 with an RBI in the sixth.
Each scored two runs.
“When this new stadium gets built, there will be a statue out front of Adrian on one knee, bat in the air, probably some ball 700 feet away,” Desmond said. “You don’t get to that position without being a pro, and he certainly showed it tonight why he’s been able to mount the numbers he has.”
Tony Barnette, Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson limited the Mariners to three hits over the final 3 1/3 innings as the Rangers won for the fifth time in their past six games and for the 10th time in their past 13 games.
The win gave them an early edge in a series featuring the top two teams in the American League West. The Rangers and weary Mariners, who didn’t arrive to the Metroplex until 4:30 Friday morning after a marathon Thursday night at San Diego, entered the game tied for the division lead.
“We’ve got great confidence,” Banister said. “They’re engaged. They believe that they’re in every single game, that they have a shot when the starting pitching gives them a chance to put runs on the board.”
Darvish did that Friday in his second start after Tommy John surgery.
Rangers vs Mariners
8:05 p.m. Saturday, FSSW