Yu Darvish smiling and improving
DETROIT -- Perhaps the best indication that Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish is getting more comfortable with each start was that his humor was in full force as he spoke with the media in an interview room just outside the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park.
The 25-year-old, who allowed one run on two hits with five walks and five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings, joked that he could have pitched another full game despite throwing 121 pitches. He was asked what Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera said to him after he flied out in the sixth.
"He was asking me about a Japanese restaurant," Darvish said.
When Darvish's interpreter, Joe Furukawa, couldn't remember part of Darvish's answer, the pitcher laughed. Then, after the conference, he went straight into the manager's office and joked with GM Jon Daniels and skipper Ron Washington that he might need a new interpreter.
It was a relaxed Darvish, who has steadily improved since the season began. He went deeper into Thursday's game than he has all season -- 6 1/3 innings -- and produced his first quality start of 2012. He threw a season-high 121 pitches, the most for any Rangers starter this season. He kept a quality Tigers' lineup from doing much damage against him and he pitched out of what could have been a major jam in the fourth inning.
Darvish wiggled out of big trouble in the fourth after walking Prince Fielder and giving up a double off the bat of Delmon Young. With runners at second and third and no outs, Darvish struck out Alex Avila on a nasty curve. Don Kelly hit a ground ball to second that scored a run and Jhonny Peralta hit a fly ball to right field to end the inning.
"I thought about the worst-case scenarios," Darvish said. "I thought about things I can't do there, like a three-run homer. I can't walk anybody. I made sure that wasn't going to happen."
Fielder and Miguel Cabrera ended up 0-for-5 with a walk off Darvish.
Catcher Yorvit Torrealba, Darvish's battery mate for the first time since spring training, said the plan was to establish Darvish's fastball early and then mix things up with the off-speed and breaking stuff the second and third time through the order. That's what Darvish did.
"He's still a power pitcher, even though he throws that secondary stuff," Torrealba said. "We wanted to get that fastball over for strikes and work off it."
Darvish said he was pleased with his fastball Thursday, but felt his cutter needed improvement, especially to left-handed hitters. Lefties were 1-for-10 off Darvish, who had struggled against them this season coming into the start (they were 14-for-38).
But he had four walks to left-handed batters and five overall. That's one area that he knows needs work. Darvish has 13 walks in 17 2/3 innings this season and has at least four per start.
After the stressful fourth, Darvish went to the stretch to start the fifth inning and stayed in it, even without men on base. He felt comfortable pitching that way and when asked about it, said it wasn't a big deal, comparing it to a ballpoint pen that he can click and just simply change colors.
Washington said he saw improvement once again and is pleased that Darvish keeps getting better and better.
"If we had turned that double play, he would have gone seven," Washington said. "He kept his fastball down and his breaking ball was effective on any count. I'm very pleased."
Darvish got his second win of the season and now every Rangers starter has at least one quality start. Darvish also continues to get good run support. He watched as Texas added to his lead as the game progressed.
"I know if I battle out there that this offense will score," Darvish said.
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