Maybe it’s because the weekend wiped me out and the after-work nap didn’t help and I was on added edge due to the collision of Stars-Ducks and Rangers-A’s but, even having gotten at least part of a decent night’s sleep, I sit here this morning still feeling like Texas is behind Oakland by three runs in a game that ended eight hours ago with the Rangers meeting on the infield and the A’s packing up their things.
Last year Yu Darvish pitched through a lot of hard luck. The Cy Young runner-up had 10 no-decisions (2.98 ERA, .209/.280/.357 opponents’ slash) and nine losses (3.88 ERA, .195/.293/.375 opponents’ slash).
Focusing solely on the no-decisions, Darvish pitched effectively enough to earn a win in lots of those in 2013. But thanks to inadequate help from the offense and/or bullpen, the Rangers’ record in games that were decided after Darvish exited last year was 4-6.
In 2014, Darvish has three no-decisions in four starts (2.14 ERA, .205/.271/.282 opponents’ slash). And no losses.
This year, Texas is 3-0 when the pen earns the decision in a Darvish start.
Which means the Rangers haven’t yet lost when its ace takes the ball — not that it’s been easy. They’ve won all three Darvish no-decisions by one-run margins (1-0, 3-2, 4-3), and the one victory he has (a 3-0 win over the Rays in his season debut) came when the score remained 0-0 after he threw his final pitch.
It’s a pretty cool thing to think about, the idea that this might be the year that the offense picks Yu Darvish up more often than it lets him down. And he needed the support last night. Give the man credit for keeping Oakland scoreless in five of six frames, but he gave up a dozen hits plus walks, threw strikes only 58 percent of the time, threw more first-pitch balls than first-pitch strikes, and seemed to rely so much on the slow curve that it lost its function as a deception piece.
It’s also a pretty cool thing that Texas, in spite of a ridiculous swarm of injuries (hold your breath until we get results on Shin-Soo Choo’s ankle MRI today) and early nothingness from the offense, now holds the second-best record in the American League and the fourth-best mark in baseball.
There’s seven-eighths of a season to go, but in the end Texas 4, Oakland 3 (Neal Cotts over Sean Doolittle) may be one to look back at, a night that might be well remembered not so much for my 30,000th tweet (a “Pickin’ machine” tip of the cap to Prince Fielder) as for the reigning AL Player of the Week coming up big yet again, and a fellow former A doing so a few innings after that, and of course it was Kevin Kouzmanoff and Donnie Murphy picking Yu Darvish up, because this is a new year.
Darvish was judged to be the American League’s second-best pitcher last year, and (not that I care about this at all but) there are probably old-school baseball writers out there who would have changed their votes if Darvish had a larger number of wins by his name in a season when the Rangers somehow went only 17-15 in his starts.
Win totals are dumb, though, and Darvish obviously deserved much better in 2013 than that sort of team record the 32 times he took the ball.
He’s only 1-0 right now. There are 77 pitchers with more statistically generated “wins.”
But I’ll take the 4-0 team record on Darvish Day, and the inference that goes with it, because it means one of the truly elite pitchers in baseball is, in this very short and early sample, getting a bigtime boost for a change from his teammates, a lot of whom aren’t even among the two dozen that were supposed to go to battle with him in April.