ARLINGTON, Texas — Just imagine how impressive Yu Darvish would be if it weren’t for the first inning.
Darvish had another rough first inning Tuesday night against the Tigers, but overcame it to record his 10th win and his fourth game with 10 or more strikeouts. He’s now tied with the Mets’ R.A. Dickey for double-digit strikeout games.
With the 7-5 victory, the Japanese import has won all seven of his starts at Rangers Ballpark and became the fastest Ranger to reach 100 strikeouts with 106 in 15 starts.
But in that first inning, Darvish issued a leadoff walk and hit a batter — both scored. But once again he grew stronger as the game went on and registered five of his 10 strikeouts in the last three frames of his seven-inning outing.
“I would like to get in a groove from the beginning. That would be ideal for me,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “That’s something that maybe I can continue to work on and learn from. But I really don’t know how I get in a groove.”
Darvish also gave up a home run to Prince Fielder in the fourth inning and another run in the fifth.
“He was trying to find a rhythm again in those first few innings and they put some runs on the board,” manager Ron Washington said. “He continued to pound the strike zone. All of the sudden his fastball was crisper, breaking balls were crisper. He had a rhythm and was using the pitches at the right time.”
Darvish is tied for the AL lead in wins and is in the top five in strikeouts. According to baseball-reference.com, his 106 strikeouts are the ninth most in history for a pitcher’s first 15 major league starts.
His numbers warrant serious consideration for a berth in the All-Star Game, but when asked about it, Darvish showed humility — and a little bit of humor.
“You just mention those numbers, but I think I also lead the league in walks,” Darvish said, smiling. (He does, with 50). “I can’t confidently say I should be an All-Star. It’s difficult to answer that.”
Darvish did answer questions about how he would deal with the Texas heat. The temperature at first pitch was a balmy 103 degrees, but Darvish never labored while throwing 113 pitches.
“My teammates tell me it’s still not as hot as it’s going to get,” Darvish said. “Although it was hot, I didn’t feel too uncomfortable.”
Added Washington: “He handled the heat well. I didn’t see it affect him at all.”
The only thing Darvish didn’t handle well, other than the first inning, was Fielder. In addition to the fourth-inning homer, the Tigers slugger doubled in the first inning and hit a fly out to the center field wall in the sixth.
“I had a plan,” Darvish said of facing Fielder. “I wanted to attack some of his weak points. But it just goes to show, against one of the top hitters in the league, that if you don’t make your pitches, leaving the ball up in the zone, those results happen.”
Much more often than not, Darvish is getting the results the Rangers want — especially after the first inning.