"I told him it's part of the game," said Washington, who was more concerned that Darvish understand why he was pulled from the game so early. "I told him we're not out to try and kill him. That was a lot of pitches in a short period of time. We need him for the rest of the year, not just one night."
As for what went wrong, Washington summed it up succinctly: "The walks just killed him."
There was no doubt about that. Darvish allowed five runs (four earned) on just four hits in four innings but also walked six while throwing 96 pitches as the expected pitching duel between him and Felix Hernandez never materialized.
Instead, the Mariners' ace held the Rangers to one run on six hits over eight innings while walking two and striking out seven. In doing so he earned his first victory against the Rangers since the end of the 2010 season after losing all four starts to them last season.
"We've seen that before, he's capable of doing that," Washington said. "Tonight was his night and not Darvish's."
The six walks were one short of Darvish's career high of seven set in 2009 while in Japan. It was also the second shortest outing by a Rangers starter this season. Scott Feldman lasted 3 1/3 innings in a spot start against the Yankees on April 25. Beginning with that date, Rangers starters are 9-11 with a 4.53 ERA in their last 25 games.
"In the early part of the game, I was OK with my command," Darvish said. "But sometime in the middle of the game, when I needed to throw a strike, I struggled to throw a strike. Next time I want to make sure I don't go through that again."
The Mariners' offense entered the game with the third fewest walks in the American League. But Darvish has walked 10 in 9 2/3 innings over two starts against the Mariners and has an 8.38 ERA against them. He faced them in his first Major League start on April 9, and this was the first time Darvish was facing an opponent that he had pitched against before.
"It had been awhile and the first time was different because it was his first time," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "But obviously he'd been having a lot of success, and our guys did a great job against him tonight. Obviously, he has a good arm, keeps the ball down for the most part, but again, you've really got to tip your hat to our guys. Offensively, our guys went up there and made him come into the zone, and when he didn't, we took the passes when we could."
Darvish started the game by striking out Dustin Ackley, but then walked Michael Saunders on four pitches. Ichiro Suzuki followed with a grounder over the first-base bag that went for a triple and gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
Darvish struck out the next two hitters to keep Suzuki at third and retired the side in order in the second. But more trouble arose in the third inning when Brendan Ryan, the Mariners' No. 9 hitter, led off with a single and Ackley drew a walk.
Saunders tried to bunt the runners over, but first baseman Mitch Moreland threw out Ryan at third base. Suzuki then singled to center, bringing home Ackley. Center fielder Josh Hamilton tried to throw out Saunders going for third on the play and overthrew everybody. The ball ended up in the Rangers' dugout, allowing Saunders to score and Suzuki to reach third.
"That was a miscue on our part," Washington saud. "The best thing to do there is keep the double play in order. If you don't have a chance to get the guy at home, you're certainly not going to get him at third."
Jesus Montero brought Suzuki home with a sacrifice fly. Suzuki ended up 2-for-3 off Darvish in the battle between the two Japanese superstars.
"He's a good hitter," Darvish said. "The first triple, the ball was down and he did a good job getting the bat on the ball. The second hit was a bad pitch, the ball was right down the middle."
Darvish started the fourth inning by facing the bottom three hitters in the Mariners' lineup: John Jaso, Mike Carp and Ryan. He walked all three batters and Ackley's single made it 5-0. Darvish still avoided a bigger inning. The Rangers were able to get a force at home on grounders by Saunders and Suzuki and Darvish struck out Kyle Seager to end the inning.
But a five-run lead was more than enough for Hernandez, and Darvish is 6-2 with a 3.05 ERA after nine starts.
"It's kind of tough giving up four hits and five runs," catcher Mike Napoli said. "But when you walk people, it's pretty tough to minimize the damage."