Commentary

Yu Darvish displays winning attitude

Rangers starter determined to keep pitching after nearly two-hour rain delay

Updated: May 12, 2012, 3:27 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Truth: C.J. Wilson pitches for the Los Angeles Angels because the Texas Rangers' front office never viewed him as a true ace, the kind of dominating pitcher capable of leading a team to a title.

They viewed him more as a No.2 starter in a quality rotation. Perhaps a No. 3.

No way they were giving him anywhere close to $15 million a season. So they let him go.

[+] EnlargeYu Darvish
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezYu Darvish allowed three runs on three hits while striking out seven to improve to 5-1 on the season.

More truth: The Rangers committed $112 million to sign Yu Darvish this offseason because they believe he has the talent to be an ace.

More important, he has the personality.

Darvish displayed those characteristics Friday night in a determined performance against the Angels.

Darvish, who waited out a 1-hour, 56-minute rain delay in the bottom of the first inning, allowed three runs and struck out seven in 5 1/3 innings as the Rangers beat the Angels, 10-3.

"He wanted the ball," manager Ron Washington said. "He kept coming to me during the rain delay saying, 'Skip, I can pitch. Skip, I can pitch.'

"Then he started telling me stories. Once, he waited through a three-hour rain delay when he was in high school and pitched a shutout.

"The kid is a winner. He wanted to pitch against the Angels. He wanted to pitch against C.J. I liked his guts tonight."

During the delay, Darvish threw every 15 minutes to keep his arm and shoulder loose. In between, his massage therapist pulled and tugged and yanked on his body.

Darvish also felt a duty to his new teammates.

After all, the Rangers put him on a flight from Baltimore to Dallas at about 1 p.m. Thursday while his teammates split a doubleheader with the Orioles. They wanted him as fresh as possible for the start of this three-game series against the hated Angels.

He didn't disappoint.

Staked to a 6-0 lead after the first inning, Darvish never gave the Angels any inkling they could stage a rally. He allowed just three hits -- two homers -- and three walks.

"The whole time, I expected to stay in the game," Darvish said through a translator. "No matter what time it started or how long it took, I kept myself ready to continue pitching."

Darvish had pretty good command of his fastball early in the game. Once a batter had two strikes, Darvish put him away with his slider.

It was especially filthy Friday.

He struck out six hitters with it. Albert Pujols, the Angels' $240 million offseason addition, fouled out twice to third baseman Michael Young and struck out on a 1-2 fastball.

Darvish said he actually pitched better after the delay. He said his pitches had more velocity and his feel for throwing them improved.

Darvish is 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA, and the Rangers lead Los Angeles by eight games in the American League West.

"The rivalry between the Angels and Rangers is still new to me," Darvish said. "I haven't grasped it yet. But the crowd seemed into it, and it clearly did pump me up and motivate me."

The only bad part of the evening was that the much-anticipated clash between Darvish and Wilson, the world's most interesting pitcher, fizzled because of the rain.

Wilson pitched just one-third of an inning -- he didn't return after the rain delay -- but he lasted long enough for karma to deliver one of its patented butt-kickings.

Wilson threw only 22 pitches before the rain, but he allowed three infield singles and a walk. A couple of poor decisions by his infielders and the Rangers led 1-0 with one out and the bases loaded when the delay began.

Jerome Williams replaced Wilson when the game resumed, and Nelson Cruz ripped his first pitch for a two-run single to left field. A fielder's choice by Mike Napoli brought home another run and Craig Gentry's two-run triple pushed the lead to 6-0.

Four runs were charged to Wilson as his ERA zoomed from 2.61 to 3.46.

He'll get the opportunity to lower it Saturday, when he starts for the second consecutive day.

Wilson may have won 31 games for the Rangers the past two seasons and helped the club play in consecutive World Series, but he was booed when PA announcer Chuck Morgan introduced him as he bounded onto the field.

The boos didn't last long and they lacked passion, but the fans made their point.

Fans don't dislike Wilson because he's condescending. And their dislike has little do with his offseason negotiations with the Rangers. It's not even about his signing with the Rangers' biggest rival.

Fans turned on Wilson because he didn't deliver in the postseason, when athletes forge their legacies and championships are won. Or lost. Wilson went 0-3 in five postseason starts last season.

He'll give you a hundred reasons -- some are legit and some aren't -- why he had a 5.79 ERA and allowed 29 hits in 28 innings with 26 strikeouts and 19 walks.

Bottom line: Wilson failed to deliver when it mattered most. That's why he's gone and Darvish wears the Rangers' blue and red.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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