ARLINGTON, Texas — A day after Boston pounded Yu Darvish for 11 hits and six runs in early August, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington summoned his 26-year-old pitcher to the visiting manager’s office in Fenway Park.
“So many people were talking about the negative. I wanted him to know that I saw the positives through the negatives,” Washington said of the conversation. “I saw him relaxed. I saw him compete. I saw a pitcher who didn’t back down when he walked a batter.
“I saw him attack the strike zone. I saw him work fast and he just kept coming after them. When I told him that, Darvish’s face just kind of lit up and that’s when I knew that he knew [he] could do some good things for us.”
Well, that qualifies as an understatement.
Since the butt-kicking in Boston eight starts ago, Darvish is 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA and a pair of no decisions. He has struck out 67 and walked 15, while allowing just 35 hits in 57 1/3 innings.
Six times he has pitched at least seven innings, and twice he has gone 6 2/3.
He has been — dare we say it — an ace.
When the Rangers spent $51.7 million just for the opportunity to sign Darvish, then gave him a six-year $56 million deal, we figured he’d eventually be the Rangers’ best pitcher. We just didn’t now it would happen this fast.
He has earned the right to start the Rangers’ first game of the postseason Friday night against the Baltimore Orioles at Rangers Ballpark and be the rotation’s anchor. As good as Matt Harrison has been this season, Darvish is the Rangers’ best pitcher right now with his 16-9 record and 3.90 ERA.
And it’s not debatable.
Through 21 starts, Yu Darvish was 11-8 with a 4.57 ERA. He’s 5-1 with a 2.13 ERA in his last seven starts, and a significant portion of that success can be attributed to a huge increase in the use of his cutter (something Richard Durrett has cited). In fact, his run of success starts with the start he drastically increased the usage (Credit to ESPN Stats & Information).
Darvish to salvage their dignity after becoming the first club in MLB history to be in first place for 178 days and not win the division.
We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on Josh Hamilton‘s ridiculously sorry play when he dropped a routine fly ball with two on and two out in the fourth inning in Wednesday’s regular-season finale, allowing Oakland to grab a two-run lead it never relinquished.
If not for Hamilton’s gaffe, we’d be talking about yet another sorry start from Ryan Dempster against a quality opponent. He has had six starts against clubs with winning records since the Rangers acquired him and he’s gotten bashed around five times.