A.J. Pierzynski with starting pitcher Yu Darvish.
Two innings into Thursday's makeup game with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish had six strikeouts. After three innings, he had eight. After six innings, he was at 14, and he finished there after seven innings, tying his career-high at 14 for the fourth time this season.
After facing the Diamondbacks on Memorial Day, Darvish got another crack at Arizona and dazzled the D-backs hitters once again following up his 14-strikeout, no-walk outing that night with another identical stat line on Thursday night. This time around, Darvish picked up a win after allowing a game-tying homer in the eighth inning back in May and taking a no-decision in a Rangers' loss.
Darvish was clearly out-classing the Diamondbacks hitters from the get-go on Thursday, using his upper 90s fastball with extraordinary control and then slipping in his filthy slider to rack up the 14 strikeouts. Now, in two starts against the Diamondbacks this season, Darvish has fanned 28 and walked none.
Adam Eaton got one of the Diamondbacks' five hits off Darvish and faced the second-year Japanese phenom for the first time in his brief big-league career after starting the year on the DL and missing Darvish the first time around.
"As a hitter you’ve got a lot of different thought processes in the box," Eaton told ESPN Dallas. "And when you hit your spot and have that many pitches, it’s tough as a hitter to put the ball in play and get good swings on balls."
After missing one start to go on the disabled list before the all-star break for precautionary reasons to rest a sore back, Darvish has been phenomenal. In his three starts since his return, he's 2-1 with that loss coming to Cleveland last weekend when he gave up a leadoff homer and nothing else.
In those three starts combined, Darvish has tossed 19 1/3 innings, allowing the lone run to Cleveland, striking out 29 and walking just six. He's given up 10 hits in that time, good for a .149 opponents batting average.
"It's as good of command as it's been," Washington said of Darvish's fastball recently. "When he wants to get it up to 95 to 96 miles per hour he's been able to do that. The difference right now is the command. He's commanding on both sides of the plate."