Commentary

Seattle keeps Yu Darvish sleepless

Rangers were convinced rest would benefit starter, but Mariners have his number

Updated: July 15, 2012, 2:30 AM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

SEATTLE -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington was convinced before Saturday's game against the Seattle Mariners that the well-rested Yu Darvish would be a new man against his surprising nemesis.

[+] EnlargeYu Darvish
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesA 13-day break couldn't rectify Yu Darvish's struggles against Seattle. The Rangers starter has a 9.00 ERA against the Mariners.
"I don't think Seattle is going to see the Darvish they saw before," Washington said. "This is a different Darvish. He's not that Darvish. That Darvish is not here anymore. He's gone."

One reporter asked Washington if that Darvish -- the evil, unable-to-throw-strikes Darvish -- had gone back to Japan.

"I don't know where he went," Washington said. "He might be in Hawaii. But he's not in Seattle, and I hope he doesn't show up."

Sorry about that, Wash. The old Darvish was back in all his devilish worst Saturday night in a 7-0 loss at Safeco Field with a first inning only a Mariners fan could love.

Darvish gave up four runs in the first, allowing one hit, two walks and a plunked a batter -- all to the first four hitters he faced. He also tossed a wild pitch that scored a run.

So much for that 13-day break making him rested and ready. Rested, maybe. Ready? Uh, no.

"I was game ready," Darvish said through his interpreter. "The rest had no effect. But early on I really struggled to throw strikes."

It was eerily similar to Darvish's big league debut against Seattle in April when he allowed four runs on four hits and three walks in the first inning, but still won the game when the Rangers came back and scored 11 runs.

No double-digit comeback this time, not with Felix Hernandez on the hill for Seattle. Hernandez was masterful, allowing only three singles while striking out 12 in his second complete game of the season.

And on the other end of the spectrum was Darvish. As if that wasn't enough, Dustin Ackley started the second inning by rifling a hot grounder off Darvish's shin. At that point, it was hard to tell what was hurting worse -- his leg or his pride.

Maybe he needed a good kick in the shin, because the good Darvish showed up briefly. He retired the side in order in the second and third inning.

But a walk and a double made it 5-0 in the fourth. Mariners catcher John Jaso blasted an opposite-field homer in the fifth to make it 6-0. Three hits and a walk to start the seventh and Darvish was done.

The Mariners, a lineup of hitting-challenged youngsters that many pitchers yawn their way past, are kryptonite for Darvish. He is 10-4 versus the rest of the AL. He is 1-2 against the Mariners with an ERA of 9.00 -- 16 earned runs in 16 innings.

"I have nothing against the Mariners, but I've noticed they have a good approach against me," Darvish said in the understatement of the night.

Washington has seen it before.

"His command was not good," Washington said of Darvish. "It's all about going out there and letting people on base for free. He has to throw it down the middle and let it go and quit trying to hit the corners."

Washington thought Darvish had learned that lesson, the one about believing in his stuff and challenging hitters. So this time, Washington just didn't see it coming.

"They won't see the Darvish that was inconsistent in the strike zone, walking people," Washington said before the game, "the one that was all over the place and couldn't find command when he threw against these guys. He has a better feel for what he's doing and he's more comfortable."

That prediction was about as accurate as me saying the Philadelphia Phillies would win the NL East this year and San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum would win the 2012 NL Cy Young Award.

Hey, we all get surprised now and then.

The biggest surprise to Washington and his staff is the fact that the long rest wasn't helpful to Darvish. If anything, it made him rusty. "That's just an excuse," Washington said. "We don't play excuses here. He has to get it done."

Darvish never wanted the extra time off.

"But we made the decision he needed it," Washington said prior to the game. "Sometimes you have to take those decisions out of the player's hands. He's a competitor. We know he wanted out there.

"But we felt like with all he went though in the first half, both physically and mentally, it would be good for both him and us to give him a break. We just have to see what happens."

Washington held up both hands with his fingers crossed at that point.

And now? He probably will cross his fingers tonight hoping what he saw from Darvish Saturday was a one-game fluke.

Send that evil Darvish back to Hawaii or Japan or Mars. And maybe the good Darvish should try something different next time he faces the Mariners.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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