Backed by big fifth, Darvish whiffs 11 in victory

Backed by big fifth, Darvish whiffs 11 in victory

Backed by big fifth, Darvish whiffs 11 in victory
ARLINGTON -- Yu Darvish had a couple of extra days of rest and he used it wisely. His bullpen sessions with pitching coach Mike Maddux emphasized throwing strikes and commanding his fastball.

Darvish turned both the lesson and the extra rest into his advantage before another sellout crowd at the Ballpark in Arlington. Darvish was refreshed, invigorating and "rocketing" the strike zone as manager Ron Washington put it while pitching the Rangers to a 6-2 victory over the Astros on Friday night.

Darvish went eight innings and allowed two runs on seven hits. He walked two, which tied his season low, and he tied a season high with 11 strikeouts. Eight of those 11 strikeouts came in the final three innings.

"In the early part of the game, I was very careful throwing strikes and getting the rhythm of the game," Darvish said after raising his record to 8-4 with a 3.57 ERA in 13 starts. "The second half, I really went after it. Overall, I was able to throw a lot of strikes and it was a very good outing."

Darvish had lost his last two starts while allowing nine runs in 12 2/3 innings. He also gave up 12 hits and walked nine. Washington said the difference on Friday was fastball command.

"He had a good fastball working tonight," Washinton said. "He used it. He had a good cutter. Had a good ride back on right-handers on that outside corner. He threw just enough breaking balls for strikes that when he needed to bury it he got swings on it. It's what he's capable of doing. Tonight he went out there with a plan, followed through with it and he really did a good job."

He beat Astros starter Jordan Lyles, who took a 1-0 lead into the fifth before the Rangers broke through with five runs that inning. Darvish is 6-0 with a 3.15 ERA in six starts at the Ballpark in Arlington this season.

"He was great," designated hitter Michael Young said. "Any time he's on the mound, we feel confident that he's going to go do his job well. He did a great job for us. Eight innings is big, especially when our pitching staff could use innings from our starters. It was definitely big for us."

This was Darvish's first start against a National League team.

"He's obviously really good," Astros first baseman Brett Wallace said. "He's got really good stuff and he's pretty confident. He'll throw anything in any count, which is something that if you can do and try to keep hitters off-balance, that's what he did. If there was guys on base he bore down and made some pitches. He's definitely a good pitcher and that's why they went after him."

Darvish has multiple pitches but he kept it simple, relying mainly on the fastball and catcher Yorvit Torrealba's pitch selection.

"I didn't think too much," Darvish said. "I trusted Torrealba to call a good game and tried make my pitches. I have complete confidence in my fastball, but it goes to show you that if I'm able to throw strikes, I'm able to get a lot of outs."

The Rangers, playing before a sellout crowd of 47,430, have won three of four this season from the Astros. The Rangers need one more win in the next two days from their future AL West rival to secure the Silver Boot trophy for the sixth straight season.

"It was a really good win," outfielder David Murphy said. "Our offense didn't really get going for a few innings. Yu did a great job of keeping us in the ballgame. It was only a matter of time before we came around. We took advantage of the mistakes and we had some consecutively big at-bats up there and got things rolling."

Trailing, 1-0, into the fifth, Texas had runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings against Houston starter Jordan Lyles and were 0-for-6 in those situations. The changed with one out in the fifth after Ian Kinsler reached on a two-base throwing error by third baseman Chris Johnson.

Lyles hit Elvis Andrus with a pitch and Young broke through for the Rangers with a single to right-center to tie the score. Andrus went to third on the play and scored the go-ahead run when Adrian Beltre lined a single to left. A bloop single by Nelson Cruz into center loaded the bases and Murphy's single brought home two more. Torrealba made it 5-1 with a bloop single down the right-field line for the Rangers fifth straight hit with runners in scoring position.

"One thing that we're doing is getting guys out there," Young said. "Lately, we haven't been getting the big hits, but as long as we're getting guys out there, that's the key. We' know we'll find ways eventually to start getting guys in, but if guys are still out there, that's definitely a positive."

Jason Maxwell's two-out home run made it 5-2 in the seventh and Jason Castro followed with a double. But Darvish struck out Jose Altuve to end inning, and the Astros were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position off him before Joe Nathan took over in the ninth.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.