ARLINGTON, Texas – It’s no secret Yu Darvish has become the only reliable starter the Texas Rangers have in their beleaguered rotation.
Texas came into Wednesday night’s contest against Miami having won just three of its last 11 games and two of those came in Darvish starts.
But as effective has Darvish has been, no one had seen Darvish do what he did against the Marlins, authoring his first complete game in career with the Rangers and making it a shutout to boot in a 6-0 Texas win.
Just like is ace is supposed to do, Darvish (7-2) helped salvage a 3-6 homestand for the Rangers and gave them some momentum heading out to what could be a make-or-break road trip for Texas.
"When he found his rhythm he just did what Yu Darvish does, make pitches, he started getting some quick outs and he was strong the whole night," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "He was strong the whole night and he certainly gave us what we needed. We needed to get back in the win column and he did that for us."
Darvish, who has flirted with no-hitters and a perfect game, got his night started imperfectly after walking leadoff hitter Christian Yelich. He needed 21 pitches to get out of the first inning and was at 37 after two, making a complete game seem unlikely.
But just when it looked like Darvish was headed for a high pitch-count total, he got into a groove. A four-pitch top of the third set the tone for the rest of the night and the run support provided by a four-run third inning gave Darvish more than enough cushion.
While he was piling up the strikeouts, reaching 10 for the 24th time in his career, he was also getting three double-play grounders to keep his pitch count down. He was at 107 pitches after eight innings and Washington had Joakim Soria warming in the bullpen just in case.
But Washington said he wasn’t going to pull Darvish until he lost his shutout. A leadoff single by Mike Stanton was erased on a double-play ball and he completed his 117-pitch outing with a strikeout of Garrett Jones.
Darvish said he knew a shutout would eventually come his way but he really wasn’t paying too much attention to it until late in Wednesday’s game.
"I wasn’t really conscious of throwing a complete game," he said. "I thought I was going to be out of the game after the eighth inning, but when Wash told me that I’m going in the ninth inning as well, I decided to go. And I also wanted to face Stanton again. I just focused on facing one hitter at a time."
Darvish is now 4-0 over his last four starts with a 1.74 ERA and his ERA in interleague games is 0.24 over his last five outings.
The big secret Wednesday was throwing his two-seam fastball when he needed to, which helped keep his pitch count down.
"He did a really, really good job of keeping the ball down tonight and getting those double plays when he really needed them," said Darvish’s personal catcher Chris Gimenez. "He does kind of seem to take a pitch or a batter or two (to get warmed up). Thankfully he figured it out a lot quicker."
While Darvish allowed six hits, they were spread out over six innings. Miami had a runner in scoring position just once, that coming in the first inning after the Yelich walk and a wild pitch put a runner in scoring position with no outs. Darvish recovered from that and never was threatened again.
Darvish (7-2) is the first Texas right-hander to pitch a complete game shutout in more than three years, with Alexi Ogando the last to do it on May 23, 2011.
Darvish wasn’t the only Rangers’ player who was sharp Wednesday. The much-needed offense came from Shin-Soo Choo, who came into the game in a 1 for 26 slump but put Texas up 3-0 with a three-run double in the third inning. He finished the night 2 for 4 with four RBI, the most he’s had since April 26, 2011.
Choo having a good night isn’t new. A complete-game shutout by Darvish is.
"It’s not that easy to throw shutouts at the major league level," Washington said. "I don’t care how good of a pitcher you are. It’s not that easy. It just doesn’t happen that often in the game today. There’s many more in his future. The guy can pitch. He has more than one pitch and he usually finds a way to find the pitches in his repertoire that works for that day. He did that tonight."