The anticipation had been building since the Texas Rangers won the right to negotiate a contract with Nippon Ham Fighters starting pitcher Yu Darvish back in December, and it reached a fever pitch after the Rangers signed Darvish a month later. All of that anticipation came to a head on Monday night when Darvish made his Major League Baseball debut against the Seattle Mariners.
All of that anticipation was clearly being felt by the 25-year-old Darvish as well, as he struggled to get through the first inning, need more than 40 pitches as he gave up four runs after walking leadoff man Chone Figgins on four pitches.
Rangers manager Ron Washington admitted he was close to going out to get Darvish in the first inning, but he did the right thing and let him work through his struggles. It could end up paying huge dividends down the road.
Imagine if Darvish had to exit the game after just 1/3 of an inning and giving up four runs in a Derek Holland circa this time last year-esque start. It would've brought shame to him and his entire country, which undoubtedly was in full Yu mode during the game (Tuesday morning in Japan).
He ended up retiring 10 straight batters at one point, as he lasted 5 2/3 innings and didn't give up a run after the second inning, which was pleasing to the eye of Rangers owner/president Nolan Ryan.
"He didn't have a feel for anything the first inning or two and kept battling away," Ryan told the media. "He hung in there and he looked like a totally different pitcher at the end than he did at the start. It was a matter of him settling down and getting back into a rhythm. It was important that he did what he did — the fact that he battled through it and Ron gave him the opportunity to stay out there and work through it. It was a very positive night."
In a way, the fact that Darvish struggled so badly and then bounced back to give his offense a chance to win the game was more impressive than had he pitched seven innings and given up one runs on four hits. It's clear from watching Darvish and listening to baseball minds who know more about the game than we do that he has the stuff to be a top-of-the-line starter, so last night's early struggles can't be too concerning. It has to be chalked up to his nerves and, as he said after the game, the fact that he was just too amped up in the beginning.
"Mentally, I was very calm, but my body felt like it wanted to go and go and go," Darvish said through his translator. "At the beginning of the game, my mind and my body kind of weren't on the same page. ... It was pretty much a battle all night. Just knowing my offense, if I could string those zeroes together, they would answer for me."
Even the opposition left the game impressed, as Ichiro said he was impressed with Yu's humility when he exited the game to a loud ovation, after a not-so-great line. Ichiro had three hits against his countryman.
"My impression was good, not his pitching but just in general after he was taken out of the game, you saw the crowd did a standing ovation and he didn't tip his cap," Suzuki said. "He wasn't very happy or satisfied with his pitching, and that shows pride. That's a good mentality, that's what I liked about him."