ARLINGTON, Texas — Yu Darvish had heard enough about him not throwing his overpowering fastball enough during his recent starts.
He took care of that Sunday.
Darvish threw 79 fastball during his 117-pitch outing and picked up his first victory since May 16 as Texas held on for a 3-2 victory over Cincinnati. The win allowed the Rangers to rebound from a 4-11 start in June to finish the month 14-14 and they will start July with the lead in the American League West.
Darvish’s logic for going fastball heavy?
“I just wanted to shut all the people up who were talking about my fastballs,” Darvish said.
He took care of that Sunday, much to the chagrin of the Reds. Darvish struck out eight, walked four, surrendered four hits and didn’t allow a run in his 6 2/3 innings. He wasn’t as dominant as he’s been in some of his outings – with just one 1-2-3 inning – but he made his pitches when he had too and left the game with the Rangers on top 2-0.
Darvish said he went heavy on his four-seam fastball, which he threw 39 times. He mixed in two-seamers and cutters as well and never let the Reds get to him. They had their chances too, as Darvish threw 24 pitches in the first, including 12 to Brandon Phillips in an at-bat that ended in a strikeout.
The Reds also stranded 11 runners on base, which helped Darvish snap a seven-start run without a win.
“He stayed ahead in the count,” said Texas manager Ron Washington, whose team has now won a season high four-consecutive series. “I thought he moved the ball around well. He mixed his pitches. He wasn’t just sitting on one pitch. There were times when they were looking for breaking stuff and he threw fastballs. There were times when they were looking for fastballs and he threw breaking stuff. That’s what pitchers do – keep hitters off balance.”
It didn’t hurt that Darvish had a little run support too. It came in the fifth inning when Elvis Andrus’ suicide squeeze ended up scoring two runs as Engel Beltre scored and Leonys Martin also scored after Reds’ pitcher Mat Latos hit Beltre in the head with his throw home.
While two runs of support doesn’t seem like much, it marks the second most the Rangers have scored for Darvish during his time on the mound in his six June starts. Three times the Rangers have scored just one run for him before he exited the game.
Texas added what turned out to be much-needed insurance in the seventh when Nelson Cruz scored Martin with an RBI single to center to put Texas up 3-0.
Tanner Scheppers, who has been dominant this season in the late innings, walked the first batter he faced in the eighth and they surrendered back-to-back singles to load the bases. After falling behind Jay Bruce 2-0, he was pulled in favor of Neal Cotts. Cotts allowed a pair of sacrifice flies before giving way to Jason Frasor, who got the final out of the eighth. Joe Nathan then worked the ninth for his 27th save.
Scheppers, who hadn’t pitched since Wednesday because of his workload, said he was fine physically and just chalked up Sunday to being just a bad day.
It was a good one for the Rangers overall and especially for Darvish. His teammates were happy to see him going back to being his overpowering-fastball self.
“I love when he throws more fastballs,” said Andrus. “I think that he gets a little tougher. That’s when his slider works way better too. He did a great job of keeping us in the game. They have a really good lineup and to be able to throw that many innings of shutout really helped us today. When you’ve got your ace out there, you always want to win and score some runs early so he can feel better.”