We should start by prefacing everything with an admission that the Oakland A's are a very bad offensive team.
Regardless of who takes the mound for the opposition, there's a fairly good chance that the A's are going to go down to the kind of meek 4-1 defeat that we saw on Wednesday night. This is not a good offensive team and one must always keep that in mind when lavishing praise on a pitcher that shuts them down.
Having said that, it was quite the performance by Yu Darvish on Wednesday night. Darvish gave up a hit in each of the first three innings, but then didn't allow another one until the final batter he faced in the eighth inning. He struck out seven, using a heavy dose of the split-finger fastball that hasn't been in heavy rotation to this point in the season, and he mixed speeds in a way that left the Oakland hitters totally incapable of making contact.
Had this been a dfferent performance than other ones we've seen from Darvish, we might just chalk it up to the fact that Oakland provides a softer landing spot than a bed covered with a few dozen pillows. It wasn't an outlier, although Darvish's best efficiency to date was probably related to Oakland's presence in the other dugout. It was the kind of performance that we've come to take for granted less than two months into his major league career.
Darvish has now struck out at least seven hitters in each of his last five starts. That run has helped him to rack up one of the most impressive strikeout totals in the first eight starts of a career and keeps pushing the expectation bar higher than you might expect for someone at such an early part of their trajectory.
Most guys at this point in the process don't have Darvish's advance billing, though, so it's not like this is some kind of Mark Fidrych moment where the baseball world has been knocked sideways by something they never saw coming. Everyone knew Darvish was coming and everyone expected him to be very good, but there was also a sizable expectation that he would fail to live up to the hype.
Things are trending the other way. If there's a limit on where Darvish can go, it's still beyond the horizon.