SEATTLE -- Typical rookie pitchers often wear down as their inaugural seasons come to a close, but Yu Darvish seems to be doing just the opposite.
Just one day after Darvish pitched another outstanding game in Thursday’s 3-1 win, Rangers skipper Ron Washington spoke about the growth he’s seen in his rookie, both on the mound and inside the clubhouse.
“He figured it out,” Washington said. “He’s not concerned about anything but competing. That’s what he thought about in Japan -- just competing -- and it just took him a while to get to that here.”
Washington had an office talk with Darvish in Boston when the rookie lost for the eighth time after he was battered around for 11 hits and six runs Aug. 6. Things certainly have changed since.
Darvish has won six of his last seven starts and five in a row. In just over one month, he’s lowered his ERA from 4.57 to 3.90 and appears to be improving with every start as the Rangers prepare for another postseason run.
"Before the stretch I wasn't performing up to my abilities, but during this streak of good outings I've done what people expected of me," Darvish said after Thursday’s start. "That's why they acquired me."
With his win Thursday, Darvish joined elite company. He became just the fourth rookie to win at least 16 games and throw 200 strikeouts. The Japanese right-hander has four consecutive starts of seven-plus innings while allowing four hits or fewer.
He’s also showing grit and emotion on the mound as of late. Washington said that’s normal for a guy pitching as well as Darvish is.
“When you start to have success, your true emotions come out,” Washington said. “He’s not guessing anymore. He’s not wondering if he can anymore. He’s just going out there and doing what pitchers that are pretty good do.”
It appears Darvish just needed time to adapt to a new team, league and country. Washington said that his pitcher seems more relaxed, is speaking more English and joking around with his teammates more.
Now, Darvish is just focused on what he does best.
“If you talk to any of the best ones out there, competing is the only thing on their mind,” Washington explained. “Their mindset is, ‘I’m going to win the battle tonight,' or 'I’m going to lose the battle tonight, and I’m not going to think about anything else. When I get out there, losing is not part of my psyche. I’m going to be shocked if I lose the battle.’
And that’s where he is -- that’s where all good pitchers are.”
- Catcher Geovany Soto made his third consecutive start behind the plate Friday against Seattle. Washington said it was his original plan to have Soto start just Thursday and Friday, but with both Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre out of the lineup Wednesday, Napoli moved to designated hitter and Soto got the start. Napoli will start again Saturday.
- Washington said that Roy Oswalt is ready to pitch if needed. Oswalt has been bouncing between a starting role and a bullpen pitcher this season. He hasn’t pitched since straining his forearm Sept. 9.
- Thursday’s 3-1 win over the Angels marked the first time the Rangers have won without having an at-bat with runners in scoring position since May 26, 2006.