Darvish strikes out 10 Rays for 13th win
ARLINGTON, Texas – Yu Darvish said he is just concentrating on being a pitcher now.
He has jettisoned the pressure that comes with being a high-priced import from Japan, and the result was impressive.
Darvish outdueled Tampa Bay's James Shields for seven innings Tuesday to carry the Rangers to a 1-0 win.
Darvish earned his 13th win, a Rangers rookie record, and recorded 10 strikeouts. He now leads the majors with eight games of 10 or more strikeouts.
"That's exactly what I'm doing right now, is just focusing on pitching, competing against the hitters, not worried about the outside stuff, or even giving up walks," Darvish said through an interpreter. "Just pitching."
While Darvish was just pitching, Ian Kinsler's fourth-inning homer was just enough to give the Rangers the lead.
After Darvish threw 110 pitches (70 strikes), the bullpen and the defense did the rest.
A terrific snare of a one-hop smash by first baseman Mitch Moreland got Mike Adams out of a jam in the eighth. Then closer Joe Nathan struck out the side in a 1-2-3 ninth to convert his 25th consecutive save opportunity.
Darvish, who skipped his previous start because of tightness in a quad muscle, allowed just six hits and two walks. He also finished off an inning-ending double play in the third when the Rays managed to load the bases.
"He came to the United States carrying a whole lot," manager Ron Washington said. "He was trying to impress a ton of people. I think right now the only thing he's concerned about is impressing Yu Darvish. Once he does that, it impresses everyone else."
Of course, ignoring outside pressure couldn't have been easy for Darvish when it was Japan-America Friendship Night at Rangers Ballpark. A contingent from Japan, including a youth team, was in the stands Tuesday.
"As a professional player, each day is no more special than any other day," Darvish said. "Having said that, a lot of people came from Japan to watch me pitch. Honestly, I just felt, ‘I can't pitch bad.'"
The Rangers needed Darvish to pitch well because Shields (12-8) was keeping the potent Texas offense in check. Shields allowed just three hits while striking out eight over seven innings.
Other than Kinsler's homer, the Rangers had just two baserunners reach second the entire game. But with Darvish finally finding a way to focus only on pitching, one run was all the Rangers needed.
"In his case, he was carrying a lot of baggage," Washington said. "And I think he done dumped the baggage. So we've got Yu Darvish now."
Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire