Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Blue Jays 1
The Texas Rangers started their 10-game, 11-day road trip the way they wanted, with another great performance from Yu Darvish and a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Some quick thoughts:
What it means: Texas is now a big league best 17-6 and Darvish is 4-0 and looking more and more like the guy the Rangers scouted in Japan. The Rangers are 9-1 on the road in 2012. Darvish and Robbie Ross are the first pair of rookie teammates to go 4-0 in April.
Darvish dominates: Darvish looked a lot like the guy who dominated the New York Yankees last week. He went seven innings and struck out nine Blue Jays on 97 pitches, meaning he still managed to have a solid pitch count despite all the Ks. He threw his wide assortment of pitches and followed a similar plan to last week: get ahead in the count early and then rely on great movement from his breaking stuff, especially a nasty slider and a nice curve. Darvish's cutter was a good pitch for him, too. His only blemish was a solo home run to Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays' top hitter this season, in the fourth. It was his eighth homer of the year and 21st RBI, which leads Toronto in both categories.
Four wins: Darvish has four wins on the season and his ERA dropped to 2.18. Since allowing five runs in his first two big league innings April 9 vs. Seattle, Darvish has given up just three earned runs in 31 innings (0.87 ERA). He's also got 19 strikeouts in his last 15 1/3 innings and just four walks.
Out of early trouble: Darvish walked Adam Lind, who seems to play well against Texas, on four pitches to start the second and then hit Encarnacion. But with two on and no outs, Darvish pitched his way out of the jam. He got Eric Thames to fly out to left field, which didn't advance the runners, and struck out Brett Lawrie on a nasty slider and Colby Rasmus on a 79 mph curveball.
Defense solid, too: Darvish is athletic and it shows in his ability to quickly get off the mound (his mechanics that have him going straight toward the plate and not falling off to one side or the other help, too). He covered the bag well on a ground ball to Mitch Moreland in the third.
Hamilton sits: Josh Hamilton, who has back stiffness, was not in the lineup Monday. He's listed as day-to-day but got another day to give the back time to loosen up.
Back-to-back jacks include Gentry HR: Craig Gentry had one career big league homer before Monday -- an inside-the-park home run Sept. 23 last season against Seattle. He's now driven a ball out of the park for a conventional homer. Gentry did it off lefty Evan Crawford, who replaced starter Kyle Drabek. Moreland blasted a homer right before Gentry and it was his second off a left-handed pitcher. Maybe that will give Moreland some confidence.
Drabek solid, too: It's worth nothing that Drabek pitched well against a tough Rangers lineup. He gave up two runs on five hits in six innings with eight strikeouts. But some long innings drove his pitch count up, ending his night earlier than Darvish's.
Cruz'n up the middle: Manager Ron Washington talked on the club's last homestand about how he wanted to see Nelson Cruz stay in the middle of the field and quit trying to pull balls. He did a nice job of that on a hanging curveball in the second. Cruz belted one to right-center and scored Adrian Beltre, who led off the inning with a double. Cruz struggled over the homestand and said he hadn't really felt comfortable. Maybe this will get him going.
Andrus stays hot: SS Elvis Andrus came into Monday's game off a nice homestand (7-for-21). He kept things going in the third with a double to center to score Ian Kinsler. As he usually does, Kinsler found a way to get on base with a walk and then scored from first on the double. That gave Texas a 2-0 lead.
Tidbits: Michael Young played third base while Beltre got a game off from his feet as the DH. Young started a 5-4-3 double play in the fifth. ... Andrus made a nice throw in the hole at short in the eighth and then Kinsler dove to his right and got an out right after that. Two nice defensive plays helped keep Toronto off the bases. ... Mike Adams got his sixth hold (ties him with Alexi Ogando for team lead) with a scoreless eighth. ... Joe Nathan pitched a 1-2-3 ninth and his fastball touched 95 mph. Solid stuff from the bullpen.
Up next: Neftali Feliz, who had his last start skipped to watch his innings count, climbs on the mound against RHP Drew Hutchinson. The game is at 6:07 p.m. on FSSW and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.