The Texas Rangers’ Yu Darvish was an astounding 49-0 when his Nippon Ham Fighters provided him a four run lead.
This afternoon, at Goodyear Ballpark, the spring training home of the Cleveland Indians, Darvish’s offense handed him four and then some.
It was 7-0 Rangers when Yu Darvish began his third inning of work—the first time in his big league career he’d pitched past the second inning.
Here’s an inning-by-inning recap of Darvish’s second major league start:
Darvish—once again pitching exclusively from the stretch—struggled with his command from the get-go. He walked Indians leadoff hitter Michael Brantley on six pitches, and issued another free pass to Asdrubal Cabrera on five pitches.
The very dangerous Shin-Soo Choo was up next.
Yet rather than face Choo with two on and nobody out, Darvish was able to battle the South Korean slugger with no one on and two out. Rangers’ catcher Yorvit Torrealba was able to flash his strong-arm as he gunned down both Brantley and Cabrera as they attempted to steal second base.
Darvish started off Choo with a strike—the first batter he’d started off ahead of—before striking him out on a 3-2 pitch to end the first.
Darvish, now pitching with a 1-0 lead, was much sharper in the second inning.
He went after Travis Hafner and had him down 1-2 immediately. Darvish then induced a lazy pop-out on the next pitch.
Jose Lopez was down 0-2 before he managed a weak, broken-bat single up the middle on the third pitch of the at bat.
Jason Kipnis was up with one out and the tying runner at first base. Darvish needed only four pitches to retire Kipnis on a strikeout.
Fred Lewis was up next with two outs and a runner on. Just as he had with Kipnis, Darvish notched a strikeout of Lewis on just four pitches. The strikeout was Darvish’s third, and it didn’t seem as though it would be his last.
The Texas Rangers’ six-run third inning was highlighted by Yangervis Solarte’s two-run home run, and provided Darvish with a cozy 7-0 lead.
Leading off, Jack Hanrahan worked a 2-2 count and put a good swing on a Darvish fastball that got too much of the plate. Rangers’ center fielder, Craig Gentry, darted towards the well-hit liner and misjudged it at the last moment and it ricocheted off of his glove at the last moment.
This is when the wheels on the fine-tuned Yu Darvish machine began to wobble.
Darvish’s next seven pitches all missed the strike zone.
He walked both Lou Marsen and Michael Brantley to load the bases for Asdrubal Cabrera with nobody out.
On a 2-2 count, Cabrera drove in the Tribe’s first run with a single through the right side of the infield.
Even with a 7-1 Rangers lead, Darvish was very much in trouble, as he had no outs and the bases jammed.
Shin-Soo Choo helped Darvish out by swinging on a 2-1 pitch that resulted in a 4-6-3 double play. The groundout forced in the Tribe’s second run and the Rangers lead was cut to 7-2.
Travis Hafner, the sixth batter that Darvish had faced in the inning, lined out to center fielder Engel Beltre to end the threat and Darvish’s second big league start.
Overall performance of Yu Darivsh (1-5 scale): 2.5
Line: 3 IP 3 H 2 ER 4 BB 3 K’s
Darvish relied on his defense to bail him out of a shaky first inning. He had a solid second frame, but featured below-average command in his third and final inning of work.
Darvish’s third inning was similar to his first frame. The first inning was a “best case” scenario (aided by Torrealba) and the third inning wasn’t quite “worst case” but it was certainly poor, based on what we saw of Darvish in his first outing last week.
Had it not been for Torrealba’s arm, Darvish could have easily been knocked around soundly in the first inning.
The type of baseball fans that were ready to anoint Yu Darvish the next coming of Cy Young after last week’s start are the exact type of fans that will label him as a bust on course to be the next Kei Igawa, after today’s outing.
Neither assessment is correct.
The Yu Darvish we saw in the second inning this afternoon in Goodyear, Arizona, is far more indicative of the “normal” Yu. Sometimes getting roughed up is the best thing that can happen to a young pitcher in his first big league spring training.
It will be interesting to see how Darvish recovers in his next spring start.
I’m willing to bet he’ll be just fine.