ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas right-hander Yu Darvish tried to keep his approach simple Friday night against the Houston Astros.
Maybe it’s the approach Darvish should take for the remainder of the season.
Darvish, who hadn’t pitched since last Thursday in Oakland, ran his record at Rangers Ballpark to 6-0 by pitching eight strong innings and leading the Rangers to a 6-2 victory.
Darvish, who allowed six runs and walked six in his last start, matched his season high in strikeouts with 11 and equaled his season low in walks with two.
It was the kind of outing Darvish wanted after his break and the kind he expected out of himself.
“In the early part of the game I was careful to throw strikes and get the rhythm going,” Darvish said. “The second half of the game I gave it all and went after them. Overall I threw a lot of strikes. It was a very good outing tonight.”
It was dominating at times too.
Darvish had three strikeouts through five innings and was just getting going. After allowing a bunt single to open the sixth, he struck out the next three batters. He added two more in the seventh and then struck out the side again in the eighth while overpowering Houston hitters with his fastball.
Darvish, who is now tied for third in the American League with 88 strikeouts, wasn’t trying to put the Astros away. It was just a product of him being able to locate his fastball wherever he wanted, something he lacked in his last start. That was the focus of his two bullpen sessions during the break and the work paid off.
“The strikeouts just happened to become a strikeout,” said Darvish. “It’s not like I’m trying to throw them. Today’s strikeouts were just a result of what happened.”
As good as Darvish was, he was still trailing early as he allowed a third-inning run and Texas was unable to match it. The Rangers left runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings.
The fifth inning was the breakout frame the team needed as the Rangers took advantage of some bloops and Houston miscues to score five times.
Ian Kinsler reached on an error with one out and Elvis Andrus was hit by a pitch to put two runners on. Michael Young, who was moved to third in the batting order with Josh Hamilton hospitalized with an intestinal virus, drove a single to center to tie the game. Adrian Beltre followed with a liner to left and Texas had its first lead.
A blooper by Nelson Cruz loaded the bases and David Murphy flipped a two-run single to center to make it 4-1. Another blooper by Yorvit Torrealba gave the Rangers more than enough runs for Darvish.
“Yu always has great stuff,” said Murphy, who went 2-for-3 and is now hitting .391 in interleague play. “I think it’s just a matter of whether he’s in the strike zone or not. Tonight, he was. Punched out a lot of guys, showed what he can do, and worked quickly, worked efficiently. That’s exactly what I love to see.”
Darvish fed off his fastball. He kept the Astros off balance with the breaking ball but it was his fastball that allowed him to throw 76 of his 110 pitches for strikes and run his record to 8-4.
“I would say he rocketed the strike zone,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “He had a good fastball working tonight. He used it. He had a good cutter, had a good ride back on right-handers on that outside corner. He threw just enough breaking balls for strikes that when he needed to bury it he got swings on it. It’s what he’s capable of doing. Tonight he went out there with a plan, followed through with it and he really did a good job.”
Darvish allowed seven hits and two runs to Houston. While he was pleased with his Friday start, he said he wants to see the results carry over in future starts.