At 99 pitches after seven innings, manager Ron Washington pulled Darvish and went to his bullpen. Darvish had relayed to his manager and pitching coach Mike Maddux that he was feeling the effects of a taxing outing and hot day.
"I wasn't going to send him back out there when he was feeling fatigued," Washington said.
Kansas City tied the game against reliever Neal Cotts in the top of the eighth, but Jurickson Profar delivered a two-out home run in the bottom of the inning as the Rangers escaped with a 3-1 victory and a series win over the Royals.
While Profar's game-winning home run was the big moment in Sunday's win, Darvish's pitch counts have been the subject of much consternation since he threw 130 pitches on May 16 against Detroit. He's thrown 101, 116 and 99 pitches since the night he pitched the eighth inning with a six-run lead against the Tigers.
Darvish had a 27-pitch second inning Sunday, and that might have been the one that caught up with him later in the game. It was the key inning for Darvish, who gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases, with no outs.
Darvish was able to get out of the jam when Jeff Francoeur lined out to shallow center field and the Royals gambled by sending slow-footed Billy Butler home. Craig Gentry made a strong throw home and catcher Geovany Soto made a swipe tag for the second out. Darvish eventually got out of the inning on another line drive out to center by Chris Getz.
"My hats' off to Gentry for that great play he made," Darvish said. "If it weren't for that play I would have struggled a lot more. I knew that after that play that I was able to regroup myself. As long as I stayed tough and patient, I would get through those innings."
Darvish did regroup, retiring the final eight Royals he faced, which added to the surprise of not seeing him come back out with the top of the Kansas City lineup on tap.
He did say after the game that he's always feeling fatigued after seven innings. So he was just passing on how his arm felt after 99 pitches.
"I told them after the seventh inning that I was a little bit fatigued," Darvish said. "But I told them that I could still pitch. But I also told them that it might be better off with (Tanner) Scheppers than with taking me out to the mound again in the next inning."
It was actually Cotts who started the eighth, allowing a double to Alex Gordon and eventually the tying run on a poor throw home by Jeff Baker. Scheppers did come in to finish the eighth, keeping the game tied at 1.
Profar's home run lifted everyone's spirits and left less reason for debate over Darvish exiting after seven.
The bottom line for Darvish is the deeper into games he goes, he starts feeling some fatigue, like most pitchers.
Circumstances dictate when he stays out there, not pitch counts, Washington said after Sunday's game.
"Any time I throw seven innings I feel a little fatigued," Darvish said. "There's nothing special to it."