Yu Darvish can throw fastballs by hitters. He can also freeze them with the slow-breaking curve.
Darvish surpassed 200 strikeouts in his rookie season while getting his 15th victory for the AL West-leading Texas Rangers in a 9-3 win against the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
"Instead of trying to incorporate all the weapons he has, he's coming out of the bullpen recognizing what's working and he's using them," manager Ron Washington said. "One time it's his slider, one time it's his four-seamer. Today, it was his cutter ... and the slow breaking ball."
Darvish (15-9) struck out nine in seven innings. The 6-foot-5 right-hander from Japan often complemented his mid-90s fastball with a breaking pitch about 30 mph slower.
"It's a tough pitch, something you're not used to," Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager said. "It definitely throws your timing off a little bit. He located really well with it. When he threw them, he threw it with a purpose."
Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton homered for the Rangers against Hisashi Iwakuma (6-5), like Darvish a former Pacific League MVP in Japan and now a rookie in the major leagues.
Hamilton also had an RBI double in the Rangers' seven-run eighth off four relievers. He leads the majors with 42 homers and 123 RBIs.
Texas maintained a three-game division lead over Oakland, which beat Baltimore 3-2 for its seventh win in eight games. The Rangers and Athletics will play seven times over the last 10 games of the regular season.
Darvish retired 12 of his last 13 batters, striking out seven in that stretch. He allowed only two hits and walked two while throwing 79 of his 110 pitches for strikes.
Darvish made his major league debut against the Mariners five months ago, a game he won after giving up four runs in the first inning. He had a 9.00 ERA in three previous starts against them.
"Just the difference between throwing against them tonight and my previous outings against them, I think it's just throwing strikes," Darvish said through his translator. "Or more precisely not feeling like I have to throw a strike."
It was Darvish's third consecutive start of at least seven innings while allowing three hits or less. The only other Rangers pitcher to ever do that was Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, now the team president. He did it in 1990.
With 205 strikeouts, Darvish is the first major league rookie over 200 since Daisuke Matsuzaka struck out 201 batters for Boston in 2007. He is the 16th rookie, sixth in the American League, with 200 strikeouts.
It was only the eighth time two Japanese starters pitched against other in the majors, but Darvish and Iwakuma faced each other six times in Japan. Darvish last season threw a complete game for Hokkaido in a 2-0 win over Rakuten and Iwakuma, who worked 8 2-3 innings in that game.
After Carlos Peguero led off the fifth with a strikeout, Darvish's fourth of the game and 200th of the season, the Japanese star quickly added to that total. Trayvon Robinson took a called third strike and Munenori Kawasaki struck out swinging, missing a 94 mph pitch right after taking a 62 mph curve over the plate.
"The hitters, I felt like they were starting to time all my other pitches, or their timing was starting to come together," Darvish said. "I talked it over with (catcher Geovany) Soto during the game to start using that slower curve more."
Michael Saunders led off the Seattle fourth with a 12-pitch walk. Seager followed with a double and Saunders scored on a sacrifice fly by Jesus Montero. In their previous game at Rangers Ballpark on May 30, the Mariners won 21-8.
Saunders led off the ninth with his 15th homer.
Iwakuma struck out four and walked one in 5 1-3 innings. He gave up seven hits, and the only runs he allowed were on the two solo homers.
Kinsler's ball skipped over the top of the left-center field wall and ricocheted off a chair in the Mariners' bullpen and back onto the field. It was initially ruled a double, but it didn't take umpires long to correctly reverse their call after watching the replay.
Hamilton was back in the lineup after getting an injection in his sore left knee and missing a game. He pulled a ball into the second deck in right field in the third.
After Elvis Andrus led off the eighth with a double, he scored on a double by Hamilton. Andrus had a bases-loaded triple to make it 9-1.
"I can't count how many things we did wrong," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "When you get steamrolled like that, it should be one helluva of a wake-up call. ... Those innings can't happen."
NOTES: Darvish is 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA his last six starts. ... The tarp wasn't taken off the field until an hour before the game, and there was still a light rain falling when the game started on time. It stopped about midway through the game. ... Seattle's defense turned consecutive inning-ending double plays. After David Murphy's liner ended the sixth, Kinsler's attempted bunt in the seventh was caught in the air by pitcher Josh Kinney and turned into a double play.