\Yu Darvish #11 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Oakland Athletics on July 1, 2012 at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas.
When the Texas Rangers paid in excess of $50 million for the right to simply talk to Japanese superstar pitcher Yu Darvish prior to the 2012 season, they did so with the unquestioned assumption that he would become an ace in the majors.
They won the rights to negotiate with Darvish, signed him and the rest has been sweet, sweet history, as Darvish is one of the game's top pitchers this year and is on top of the world when it comes to strikeouts — on record pace.
Two things have given Darvish problems this season in what is becoming a great, great year for the second-year pitcher. You're splitting hairs when you're trying to pick apart the game of a pitcher that's 7-2 with a 3.03 ERA, 105 strikeouts, 22 walks and is coming off his third 14-strikeout outing of the year.
Those two things are pretty easy to figure out if you've watched Darvish outings this year — early-game struggles and giving up the long ball.
In a game in which the Rangers really needed Darvish to be an ace on Monday night, the nightcap of a doubleheader coming off a 13-inning game on Sunday which ate up seven pitchers, the Rangers got just what the wanted, for the most part anyway.
The first two batters Darvish faced on Monday night crossed home plate for the Diamondbacks, giving them an early 2-0 lead and continuing the trend of Darvish giving up early runs before being dominant and lasting long into games. After Monday's game, 11 of the 25 runs Darvish has allowed all season have come in the first inning.
Another problem for Darvish this year has been the long ball, which reared its ugly head in a big way late in Monday night's game when Didi Gregorious cranked a two-run homer in the eighth to tie the game, after which you had a pretty bad feeling the Rangers' bullpen wouldn't be able to hold up.
Gregorius' home run marked the sixth straight Darvish start in which he's allowed a homer after not allowing one through his first five starts.
Again, it's splitting hairs with Darvish but if he can quell those two issues, he'll be even more dominant.