Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Rangers 1, Rays 0
By Jeff Caplan
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Yu Darvish is back. After waiting 10 days between starts due to a sore right quadriceps muscle, the Japanese right-hander again showed the ability to get stronger as the game wore on. He pitched out of trouble in the second and again in the fourth with the bases loaded and one out. He then faced just 10 batters over his final three innings and struck out six of them to give him 10 on the night.
Darvish successfully nursed Ian Kinsler's fourth-inning lead-off home run into the left-field bleachers to improve to 13-9 while lowering his ERA from 4.51 to 4.31. Darvish allowed seven hits, including two of the infield variety, one of which slowly rolled down the first-base line until bumping into the base. Arguably the most encouraging sign was Darvish's two walks, giving him three in his past two starts spanning 14 innings.
In all, it's not a bad night when you pull out a win scoring a single run and managing just four hits as the middle of the majors' most formidable batting order was completely baffled. It certainly helps when three Texas Rangers pitchers combine for 14 strikeouts.
What it means: It's the third time this season the Rangers have won a 1-0 game, but those pesky Oakland A's just won't go away. They beat the Cleveland Indians again behind another stellar pitching performance and remain 5 1/2 games behind the Rangers. As for the Los Angeles Angels -- 10 full games back at the start of Tuesday's games -- do we really need to still keep daily track? They're playing a late one in Anaheim against the Boston Red Sox.
Yu K: Darvish struck out 10 Rays in seven innings to make Rangers history. It's the most double-digit strikeout games by a Rangers rookie pitcher in franchise history. Jim Bibby did it seven times in 1973. It's the third time a Texas pitcher has at least eight 10-strikeout games in a single season. The other two came from team president Nolan Ryan, who had an unfathomable 18 in 1989 and eight in 1990. Darvish's eight this season leads the majors.
Kinsler plays long ball: Ian Kinsler won't match his 30-30 season of 2011, but he did move beyond the halfway point in homers Tuesday with a lead-off blast into the left field bleachers in the fourth inning for a 1-0 lead. Kinsler rocketed Shields' 3-1 four-seam fastball for the Rangers' first hit of the game. It was his 16th homer of the season and his third career homer off Shields. While Kinsler's home runs are down, his RBIs are up. He got No. 65 and needs 12 to tie last season's career-high 77.
Lead saver: First baseman Mitch Moreland made the play of the game with two outs in the eighth inning and the tying run on second base. With Mike Adams on in relief, Ben Zobrist ripped a shot down the first-base line that Moreland stabbed with the backhand well behind first base and made the putout to end the inning.
Shields up: Other than the mistake to Kinsler, about the only aspect of Shields' outing up for criticism is the number of pitches needed -- 112 pitches to get through six innings and finally 121 to plow through the seventh. He faced the minimum through the first three innings after picking off David Murphy, who walked to lead off the third. Geovany Soto singled with one out in the fifth with Michael Young at first, but Shields caught Moreland looking at a third straight curveball. Elvis Andrus singled to right in the sixth and took second on Josh Hamilton's fly to left. After Shields intentionally walked Adrian Beltre, he got Nelson Cruz to ground back to the box to end the inning. Shields, who struck out eight and walked two -- one intentionally -- came back and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, but still headed to the showers down 1-0 despite allowing just three hits.
Picked again: Murphy, the Rangers' lone baserunner in the first three innings, was picked off first base. He argued the call to no avail. It was the 10th time a Rangers baserunner was picked off, and that leads the majors. The Marlins have been caught napping nine times and the Angels eight times.
Adams goes 3 in a row: The ever-trusty right-hander got a huge strikeout of Evan Longoria with one out and Sam Fuld on second after stealing the base. Adams got Longoria, who homered off Derek Holland on Monday, to swing and miss on consecutive, 77-mph curveballs. It was Adams' third consecutive game to work and he's now put up nine scoreless innings in his past 10 games.
Nathan back in groove: He entered Tuesday's game with a 4.73 ERA over his past 14 outings, but that trend continued to reverse itself as Joe Nathan extended his single-season club record with a 25th consecutive save and 27th overall. The 25 consecutive saves also ties the overall record held by John Wetteland in 1997 and '98. Nathan struck out the side and has now worked 7 1/3 scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts in his last eight games.