Darvish wins debut despite rough start
Yu Darvish had a feeling of calmness when he took the mound for his much-anticipated major league debut for the Texas Rangers.
Once he settled down his big right arm to match how his mind felt, and got past a rough start with some help from his powerful offense, Darvish was a winner for the two-time defending American League champions in an 11-5 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Monday night.
''Mentally, I was very calm, but my body felt like it wanted to go and go and go,'' Darvish said through his translator. ''At the beginning of the game, my mind and my body kind of weren't on the same page.''
After giving up four runs while throwing 42 pitches in the first inning, then allowing another run in the second, Darvish (1-0) later retired 10 in a row while pitching into the sixth.
''It was pretty much a battle all night,'' Darvish said. ''Just knowing my offense, if I could string those zeroes together, they would answer for me.''
Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer in the third for Texas to tie the game at 5, then Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton both went deep in the fourth to give Darvish an 8-5 lead.
Ian Kinsler added a three-run blast in the eighth, his second of the season, then said after the game that he has agreed to a new $75 million, five-year contract. That deal is pending a physical and would start next season, replacing a $10 million option the team had for 2013.
Darvish was Japan's top pitcher before the Rangers committed more than $107 million to acquire him, his guaranteed $56 million, six-year contract and a more than $51 million posting fee to his former team. Despite the early struggles in his first start, the 25-year-old right-hander is undefeated in Texas.
''Going through warmups and everything, he felt fine,'' said catcher Mike Napoli, sporting a ''Yu is my Homeboy'' T-shirt after the game. ''He got out there and was over-amped. I don't think he was scared, he was excited to be out there.''
Darvish walked leadoff hitter Chone Figgins on four pitches to start the game before striking out Dustin Ackley.
Ichiro Suzuki then blooped a single just over third base, and Justin Smoak lined a single to right before Kyle Seager's two-run single. Another walk and an RBI single by Miguel Olivo reloaded the bases before Munenori Kawasaki, an eight-time All-Star in Japan who was the only Mariner to previously face Darvish, walked on four pitches and put Seattle up 4-0.
There was also a wild pitch thrown so hard that it ricocheted off the brick backstop right back to Napoli.
''In the first inning, it just seemed like he couldn't get control of his emotions. He checked himself, and showed what kind of battler and warrior he is,'' manager Ron Washington said. ''He got us into the sixth inning, almost finished the sixth.''
After No. 9 batter Brendan Ryan was hit by a pitch with one out in the third, Darvish retired the next 10 batters before Ackley walked and Suzuki singled with two outs in the sixth.
When manager Ron Washington replaced him with Alexi Ogando — who struck out Smoak to end that inning — Darvish got a loud ovation from the crowd that was also chanting ''Yuuuuuuu!'' as he walked to the dugout without acknowledging the cheers.
''My impression was good, not his pitching but just in general after he was taken out of the game,'' Suzuki said through a translator. ''You saw the crowd did a standing ovation and he didn't tip his cap, he wasn't very happy or satisfied with his pitching, and that shows pride. That's a good mentality, that's what I liked about him.''
Darvish called it moving to get that kind of reaction after his tough performance, and said he wasn't aware it was customary to tip his cap to the crowd.
''I guess we'll tell him,'' Napoli said with a smile.
Darvish struck out five and walked four while throwing 59 of his 110 pitches for strikes. He gave up eight hits.
Seattle starter Hector Noesi (0-1) only made it into the fourth. The right-hander was gone after Napoli drew a leadoff walk and Moreland followed by pulling a 382-foot homer down the right-field line for a 7-5 lead.
Noesi struck out three and walked three and gave up six hits in his three-plus innings.
Michael Young and Cruz had consecutive two-out RBI singles in the first off Noesi, but Seattle got another run in the second when Suzuki doubled and scored on a double by Seager.
Darvish, 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA in 167 games in Japan's Pacific League the past seven seasons, got out of the second when Michael Saunders took a called third strike. Darvish then got on a roll in the third before the Rangers' big bats put him in the lead.
Cruz, the ALCS MVP last October, got his first homer of the season when he pulled a liner into the left-field seats right after Hamilton was called out at home trying to score on Young's grounder.
Hamilton argued briefly with home plate umpire Paul Nauert, and replays showed that the slugger might have slid around catcher Olivo's tag.
There was no doubt about Hamilton scoring in the fourth, his second homer of the season a solo shot over the center-field wall off rookie right-hander Erasmo Ramirez.
That was the only run allowed in three innings by Ramirez in his major league debut.
Notes: Ogando, a 13-game winner and All-Star as a starter last season, went 1 1/3 innings. He has appeared in three of four games, with 3 1/3 scoreless innings. ... Neftali Feliz, the Rangers' closer-turned-starter, makes his first start Tuesday night against Seattle. He faces right-hander Blake Beaven, the former top prospect for the Rangers who was traded to Seattle two seasons ago in the Cliff Lee deal.