Darvish won for the seventh straight time at home, pitching the Rangers to a 7-5 victory over the Tigers on Tuesday night. A crowd of 39,561 also didn't let a game-time temperature of 103 degrees bother them as they watched Darvish run his home record to 7-0 with a 3.45 ERA.
"He handled the heat well," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's used to throwing 120, 130, 140 pitches. But if you watch his demeanor on the mound, he knows how to pace himself. He has an idea of what he's trying to do. He's not just wailing away out there. I asked him after six how he felt, and he said he felt strong. He handled the heat well. He didn't let it affect him at all."
The Rangers trailed 3-1 going into the fourth before scoring four runs against Tigers starter Drew Smyly. The Rangers had 10 hits on the night, while Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton hit home runs. But the biggest thing was going 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position, as the Rangers won for the ninth time in their last 11 games. They maintained their 4 1/2-game lead over the Angels in the American League West.
"We'd obviously like to finish the first half in a strong way and do things that we hadn't done very well in the first half of the season," Hamilton said. "Any improvements, anybody getting hot at the right time is welcome at this point, especially at this point coming up to the break."
Darvish allowed four runs on four hits and one walk in seven innings, with 10 strikeouts, raising his record to 10-4 with a 3.57 ERA after 15 starts on the season. He is tied with teammate Matt Harrison and the Rays' David Price for the most wins in the AL. He also has 106 strikeouts in 15 starts, making him one of just five AL pitchers with at least 100 strikeouts.
"Yeah, I think I also lead the league in walks, too," Darvish said.
He does lead the AL in walks, with 50.
"It doesn't look like he commands his fastball too good, but he's got good secondary pitches and he's able to use them, and he uses them in big spots," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He's a good big league pitcher."
Darvish did have some control issues in the first inning. He walked Austin Jackson leading off the game and, after Quintin Berry struck out, Darvish hit Miguel Cabrera in the helmet with a pitch. Prince Fielder made him pay with a two-run double. Darvish has now issued 12 of his 50 walks in the first inning.
"I really don't like having that kind of first inning; I'd like to get in a groove from the first inning on," Darvish said.
He did. He gave up a home run to Fielder to lead off the fourth, but was able to retire 12 of the last 14 hitters he faced on the night. Once the Rangers gave him a lead, Darvish made sure it didn't slip away.
"He was good," catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. "The first inning, he was kind of wild. That second inning, he settled down really good. It's just something about the first inning. He might have been overthrowing a little bit. I was just trying to slow him down. After the first inning, he allowed a couple runs and we made a couple adjustments."
"He definitely made some adjustments after the first couple innings, throwing more strikes," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. "The thing is, when he's throwing that curveball over for a strike, it's really hard, because it's a huge speed difference. You go from 70 to 94 mph. That's a big speed difference. Then he has all of his other pitches, and he made the adjustments to be able to throw strikes with everything he had after his first couple innings."
Darvish turned it over to the bullpen after throwing 113 pitches. It was 97 degrees in Rangers Ballpark at the time, but he was still going strong.
"It seemed like the longer the game went on, the better he got," Washington said. "They got some runs off him early, but he continued to pound the strike zone, and all of a sudden his fastball got crisp and his breaking ball got crisper. He kept us in the game and we scored some runs. He did a great job. It seems like the longer the game goes and the more pitches he throws, the more in sync he gets. Tonight was a case in point."