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Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Yu Darvish has earned Game 1 start

By Richard Durrett

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Game 1 of any playoff series usually belongs to a club's top pitcher. It's supposed to be the guy who has pitched the best and knows what to do in a pressure situation.

And while he's still a big-league rookie, Yu Darvish is that guy. He deserves the opportunity manager Ron Washington, pitching coach Mike Maddux and the staff are giving him to start the first playoff game. He'll go Friday against the Baltimore Orioles in the wild-card game.

It's what Darvish has done the last six or seven weeks that makes this the right call. Matt Harrison has been the club's most consistent pitcher all season long and has more playoff experience. But Darvish has been dominant, has swing-and-miss stuff and is pitching with a bunch of confidence.

“He’s our big-game pitcher,” Washington said. “That’s something he’s always been in his career.”

Don't forget: Darvish has pitched in playoff games in Japan. He's thrown big innings in the World Baseball Classic. No, none of that compares to the bright lights of the MLB postseason. But the way he's pitched down the stretch in meaningful games makes me believe he's ready to handle it.

Look at the numbers his last eight starts. He's 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA. He has 67 strikeouts and 15 walks and opponents are hitting just .176 in that span. Those are numbers worthy of a top playoff starter. Darvish will get his chance to prove that's what he is now. That should be fun to watch.