By Will Martin
It was about 2 hours before trekking toward my old stomping grounds in Arlington after a long work day that I heard the news: No Matt Harrison until well after the All-Star game due to a herniated disc. This was not the news the Ranger nation wanted to be made aware of.
Especially on a night when Yu Darvish took to the mound with the knowledge that he is now the true #1 until Matt returns.
Derek Holland as #2 we can also live with.
With the Seattle Mariners in town for three and a two city road trip awaiting Texas (with the Angels and Twins next week) it was important to get off to a great start this night with Joe Saunders on the hill for Seattle.
My last visit to the Ballpark in Arlington, ironically enough, was on September 16th.
A cloudy, cool, chilly night where Yu Darvish was spot on with his control and Josh Hamilton hit one of his last Hambombs into the right field jet stream before the team collapse went down.
Coming into Friday’s game, the Rangers had scored only 55 runs, the fourth-fewest in the American League. With an average of 3.67 runs per game, Texas ranked 22nd in the Major Leagues prior to Friday. (By comparison, the Rangers’ 4.96 runs per game in 2012 were the most in the Majors.)
“We haven’t been really performing offensively like we feel we can,” said center fielder Craig Gentry, who was 2-for-4 with a double in the second and a key two-run triple in the big fifth inning Friday. “I feel like that inning showed what we can do. We brought our bats out a little bit today.”
Jeff Baker got the scoring started in the second frame with a solo blast. Then the bottom of the fifth made the Mariners want to drop in the drink. A 6 run outburst gave Yu Darvish all the run support he needed for a 7-0 victory. The big hit of the inning was a triple to left field by Craig Gentry that rolled all the way to the wall when Raul Ibanez slipped fielding the hit.
7 solid innings for Darvish with 10 strikeouts and 3 walks while allowing only 3 hits as he improved to 3-1 and an ERA of 2.03. Stellar stuff as both managers would interject.
“He’s been asserting himself for quite awhile now — even when he felt that maybe he wasn’t performing the way he should, the results were still being gotten,” manager Ron Washington said. “That’s what good pitchers do. Tonight was no different than what I’ve been seeing. Yes, he’s been a little erratic every now and then, an inning here, an inning there, but he’s always found a way to get through his innings. That’s what you like to see.”
Pitching on six days’ rest after he lost 3-1 to Seattle last Friday, Darvish looked different to the Mariners this time.
“You saw all the breaking balls he threw last time,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “I think he used his fastball more effectively and still used his breaking ball good. He had better command. He pitched a good ballgame.”
With the combined 5-hitter thrown before a chilly crowd of 36,273 (63 degrees at first pitch) Texas improves to 10-6 while the Mariners fall to 7-11. Joe Saunders has a terrible history of trying to win in Arlington. Some things never change.
Both teams do it again Saturday night as Nick Tepesch and Brandon Maurer will have at it.
Maybe it as the weather, maybe because it’s only April but it seemed like the Yu’s weren’t as pronounced as they were on my last visit in 2012. The first of many visits to Arlington in 2013 in addition to Houston with the Astros and Indians this weekend.
Yu have to like what Mr. Darvish has done this month. You can also start to ponder how the pitching shall fare as the rest of the staff pick up the slack for one Matt Harrison.
July at the earliest we are now told. Ouch!