Extra rest pays off for Darvish vs. Astros

ARLINGTON, Texas — Yu Darvish wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear the Texas Rangers were going to give him extra rest to prepare for a start against the Houston Astros. But in the aftermath of a dominating performance Friday, the right-hander acknowledged it was a pretty solid decision.
 
That Darvish’s start was sandwiched between another shaky outing by Scott Feldman and Saturday’s debut by a Double-A call-up named Justin Grimm gave it added significance. The Rangers used a two-out rally in the fifth inning to fuel a 6-2 win before another sellout crowd.
 
Darvish had been awful in his previous outing against the Oakland A’s, getting bounced after allowing six runs and six walks in 5-1/3 innings. Numerous theories emerged as to why Darvish was struggling, but Rangers manager Ron Washington thought it was pretty simple.
 
He ordered the pitcher to work on commanding his fastball. After a sensational start to the season, Darvish for some reason became obsessed with throwing the perfect pitch. Instead of attacking the strike zone, he tried to paint the edges.
 
Light-hitting teams such as the Mariners and A’s took their free passes off Darvish and then sprinkled in a few timely hits to knock him out of games. It was obvious Friday that Darvish had a different approach.
 
He threw 21 first-pitch strikes to the 31 batters he faced. And once he got ahead in the count, he put away hitters with a variety of pitches, including a two-seam fastball late in the game. In eight innings, he allowed two runs on seven hits while racking up 11 strikeouts. And once the Rangers staked him to a 5-1 lead with a big fifth inning, Darvish took advantage of the Astros’ desperation. He had eight of his 11 strikeouts in his final three innings while relying quite a bit on his fastball. When he blew away J.D. Martinez in the eighth inning, Darvish pumped his fist and screamed. It was his 110th pitch of the evening, and he informed Washington in the dugout he had more in the tank.

“I didn’t overthink too much,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “I trusted (catcher Yorvit) Torrealba, trusted what he put down and concentrated on the hitter and made my pitch.”
 
Washington wanted Darvish to simplify his approach during his extended rest. And the manager had a feeling the mental break would also benefit the pitcher.

“He’s dealing with a lot of stuff,” Washington told FoxSportsSouthwest.com. “He’s pitching on a different type mound and he’s getting used to throwing a new baseball. Plus, he doesn’t know any of these hitters. But the good thing is he seems to have a great memory once he’s faced someone.”
 
One of the most important things for Darvish is that he allowed only two walks. One of them, in the third inning, led to the Astros’ first run, which cored on Jed Lowrie’s single up the middle. But Darvish got Martinez to ground into an inning-ending double play.
 
Maybe it’s all those “Yuuuuuuu!” chants that make Darvish feel so comfortable at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He leads the majors with six wins at home and is tied for the American League lead in wins with eight. Of course, it also helps that his teammates average more than 5-1/2 runs per game when he’s on the mound.
 
Darvish wants to take the ball every fifth day, but he admitted Friday the extra days off helped. Now, Grimm doesn’t have to face the Astros with the added pressure of trying to avoid a three-game losing streak. Washington admitted that it was a big spot for Darvish, the Rangers’ ace-in-waiting.
 
“I have confidence in all my (starters) that they can pitch us into the seventh inning,” said Washington. “But it’s hard to know exactly what to expect from guys you don’t know as well. We needed [Darvish] to do what he did tonight.”
 
It was hard not to worry about Darvish based on his recent outings. But he returned to form against the Astros. If the Rangers can get consistent pitching from Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Darvish, they can hold the fort until Roy Oswalt is ready to join the rotation.
 
Now, it seems the famed Silver Boot has a great chance to remain in Arlington.