ARLINGTON, Texas – There was no walk-off magic needed for the Texas Rangers Thursday night against Arizona.
Yu Darvish made sure and sprinkled his magic through the first seven innings of the game and that was more than enough as the Rangers cruised to a 7-1 victory over the Diamondbacks.
The victory capped a 4-0 homestand for Texas and closed the gap in the American League West to 3 ½ games, the closest the Rangers have been to Oakland since July 25.
Darvish matched his Major League career high with 14 strikeouts and allowed just five singles in his seven scoreless innings as the Diamondbacks had no answer for the right-hander, who improved to 10-5 on the season.
Darvish threw 78 of his 111 pitches for strikes on his way to making history. He now has the club record for games with at least 14 strikeouts in a season (four), surpassing Nolan Ryan’s old mark of three set in 1990. He’s also just the third pitcher in big-league history to have at least three 14-strikeout games in a season without allowing a walk.
Darvish has now allowed just 10 hits in 21 1/3 innings since coming off the disabled list after the All-Star break and has 29 strikeouts.
“I didn’t think I was going to get this many strikeouts,” said Darvish, who has reached double figures in strikeouts in 16 of his 50 Texas starts. “My movement on my slider was consistent. Some were dropping down. Some were going sideways. That worked in my favor, the inconsistency of my slider.”
There was one thing consistent about Darvish Thursday to the Arizona hitters. They were doing a lot of swinging and missing.
Darvish recorded his first six outs via strikeouts and had at least two strikeouts in each of the first six innings. He reached No. 14 with his third strikeout of Paul Goldschmidt to end the sixth. The one thing Darvish wasn’t able to do was get to 15 strikeouts, which would have matched his high while pitching in Japan.
No one in the Texas clubhouse seemed to mind though, as Darvish has now struck out at least half the batters he’s faced in a club-record four starts this year.
“He was using all his pitches, pounding the strike zone,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “He was just outstanding tonight. Everything he threw up there they just couldn’t get on. He threw 78 strikes. He was pounding the strike zone. They just weren’t putting the ball in play.”
The Rangers didn’t have that problem against Arizona rookie Zeke Spruill.
Texas gave Darvish some run support early when A.J. Pierzynski homered with one out in the second inning. Mitch Moreland added a homer in the third and David Murphy got a three-run third started by hitting the third homer of the game for the Rangers.
Texas finished with 11 hits, with five going for extra bases. The offense didn’t need to do much though the way Darvish was going.
“He was as good as I’ve seen him all year, counting the almost perfect game he threw for the first start of the year,” Pierzynski said. “His stuff was just nasty. He was throwing fastballs to the corners. He really had a good split tonight and obviously he always has a slider. He just kept mixing it up and the strikeouts just kept coming and coming. Nights like that are fun.”
The Diamondbacks probably didn’t see it that way. They’ve faced Darvish twice this season and have done lots of flailing. His third 14-strikeout game of the season came against Arizona on May 27.
No. 4 wasn’t a lot of fun either, as Arizona had just one runner in scoring position against him in the first six innings.
“He’s got good movement on his ball and he’s got a lot of different pitches,” said Arizona centerfielder Adam Eaton, who had a first-inning hit but then struck out in the third and grounded out in the sixth. “As a hitter, you have a lot of different thought processes in the box. When you hit your spots and you have that many pitches, it’s tough as a hitter to put the ball in play and get good swings on the ball.”