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Sunday, August 18, 2013
Great not good enough for Yu Darvish

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

Darvish
Yu Darvish is now 3-5 -- and the Rangers are 5-9 -- when Texas doesn't score more than four runs. He needs to perform better in low-scoring affairs if the team is going to see the postseason.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Yu Darvish is one of the American League's best pitchers, a bona fide ace.

No one is arguing that. No one could.

Not with some of the ridiculous numbers he's put up, such as 110 hits in 160⅓ innings. Or his league-leading 214 strikeouts.

But if he's going to lead the Texas Rangers to the AL West title, the Rangers need more.

Yu must pitch better on the rare days he doesn't have his best stuff or the offense don't bless him with a ton of runs.

It's OK to occasionally nitpick greatness. This is one of those times.

On Sunday, the Rangers needed him to outpitch some dude named Erasmo Ramirez and his 7.06 ERA in the final game of a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners.

He didn't.

Instead, he struggled with his command, allowing Seattle to control the game and, ultimately, win 4-3 with a ninth-inning run off closer Joe Nathan.

Yu is now 3-5 -- and the team is 5-9 -- when the Rangers score four runs or less.

That ain't good enough.

And if you're honest, you know it's not good enough for a guy who certainly wants to be considered among the best in baseball. Sometimes, you need your ace to win a taut, low-scoring game.

It's alright to hold an ace such as Yu to the highest of high standards. After all, not many can spin a baseball better. But the Rangers need him to dominate.

For the first time in forever, the Rangers have a raggedy offense that struggles to score runs and has virtually no pop.

Six games into their nine-game homestand, the Rangers have five doubles and one homer. Just so you know, they haven't homered since Mitch Moreland's bases-empty dinger last Tuesday, a span of 42 innings.

Yu Darvish
Darvish's goal is to "keep the games [as] close as possible." The strategy isn't working. At this point, he might want to strive to put opponents away early.
These Rangers must create runs by stealing bases, executing squeeze plays and hit-and-runs and taking advantage of defensive miscues. Five months into the season, you're fooling yourself if you think the Rangers offense will significantly improve.

The offense is pedestrian because David Murphy, Elvis Andrus and Moreland haven't been the offensive players the Rangers figured they would be when the season started. And Ian Kinsler has been inconsistent after a terrific start.

The Rangers struggled to score runs when they had Nelson Cruz, the team leader in homers and RBI in the lineup. He's going to miss the rest of the regular season for violating the MLB policy on performance-enhancing drugs, which means Adrian Beltre is the only steady thumper in the lineup.

And that's why the Rangers must get just a little more from Yu.

No one said it's fair. You can argue it's not, but to whom much is given -- $56 million over six years -- much is required.

It's not like he can't do it.

Against Seattle, Yu allowed seven hits, walked four and struck out seven in 7⅓ innings. He threw 120 pitches, his fourth-highest total of the season.

He was cruising through four innings before he lost the feel for his fastball. Without a dependable fastball, Yu couldn't set up hitters and strike them out with baseball's filthiest slider.

Nine of the last 17 hitters Yu faced reached base; the leadoff batter reached each of his last four innings.

With two outs and two on via walks in the sixth, Yu gave up a run-scoring single on a 2-2 pitch.

"In many games I have trouble with my command," Darvish said through a translator. "Today, it happened after the sixth inning."

Washington made a curious decision to let Yu start the eighth, since he'd thrown 105 pitches and struggled to escape the seventh without yielding a run after the first two batters reached.

"My velocity was still up there, although I was a little bit fatigued," Darvish said. "But I felt really good, so I decided to go out there."

He walked Kyle Seager to lead off the inning and allowed a single to Kendrys Morales before striking out Justin Smoak. Washington replaced him with Robbie Ross, who had allowed six of his past 12 inherited runners to score.

Dustin Ackley's two-out single off Ross gave Seattle a 3-2 lead. The Rangers tied it in the bottom of the eighth, but Nathan allowed the game-winning run in the ninth.

"The goal of the starter is to keep the games [as] close as possible," Darvish said. "So it doesn't really matter if your offense is not supporting you or you don't have any runs; your approach doesn't change."

Perhaps the time has come for Yu to alter his mindset.

The Rangers don't need him to just keep the score close; they need him to elevate them to victory if they're going to make the playoffs.