The numbers would suggest there was a significant difference. Darvish retired 12 of the first 14 batters he faced through four innings, then allowed nine of 18 to reach base before exiting the game with two on and one out in the eighth inning.
Four of those nine baserunners came leading off the inning, including three by walks. Closer Joe Nathan also let the leadoff hitter reach base in the ninth when Endy Chavez singled and that was the one the Rangers couldn't overcome. Instead, Kyle Seager doubled home Chavez with two outs and the Mariners held on to a 4-3 victory over the Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington.
The loss left the Rangers 2-3 on their homestand after they went 9-1 on their last road trip. With Oakland's win over Cleveland, Texas' lead in the American League West is down to a half-game. Seager has been a particular pain late in the game for the Rangers as he also hit a two-run home run in the eighth in the Mariners' 3-1 victory on Friday night.
"Their lineup always wants to give you a battle, especially those guys in the middle," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "They always seem to have a good approach. I don't think it's as easy as people think it is against those guys. They played well, and they're going to be tough down the stretch."
Darvish was 4-1 with a 1.31 ERA in five previous starts and his first four innings suggested he was going to be good again. But things started shifting in the fifth in his duel against Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez.
"He lost his command," manager Ron Washington said. "Early he was spotting it up, but after we got into the fifth inning, he got erratic with his command. But he was also able to pitch out of trouble, too."
The game was scoreless through four before the two teams started exchanging runs. Darvish gave up a single to Michael Saunders to start the fifth and another on Dustin Ackley's slow chopper to first baseman Mitch Moreland, who was looking to second for the force. When he decided against it, it was too late to go to first and get Ackley.
Chavez came up to bunt and when Darvish missed with the first pitch, Pierzynski fired down to second trying to pick off Saunders. But Saunders crossed him up by breaking for third and beating Adrian Beltre to the bag. He scored as Chavez grounded out to first.
"I'd like to say we rehearsed that, but I just got caught flat-footed," Saunders said. "Luckily it worked out, but it was not a good read. Originally I did think about going back. But I'm dead if he makes a good throw. So I just took off for third and luckily Beltre was playing in. At that point, it was a foot race to the bag and it ended up working out."
Ramirez had retired 11 of 12 going into the bottom of the fifth before Pierzynski led off with a double and he ended up scoring on Moreland's sacrifice fly. But Darvish walked Nick Franklin to lead off the sixth. It was the first of three straight innings that Darvish walked the leadoff hitter.
"I don't think it's frustrating as long as you get the other guys out," Darvish said.
He had trouble doing that. A wild pitch put Franklin into scoring position and he ended up scoring on Saunders' two-out double. The Rangers tied it in the sixth on a two-out single by Beltre, but Darvish couldn't stop walking the leadoff hitter.
Darvish avoided trouble after a leadoff walk in the seventh, but not the eighth. Darvish walked Seager and Morales followed with a line drive single to center that Craig Gentry just missed catching. Darvish then struck out Justin Smoak, but that was his last batter. Darvish, after throwing 120 pitches, was replaced by left-hander Robbie Ross.
The Mariners had two left-handed hitters coming up, but Ross had allowed six hits in his last 10 at-bats against left-handers. He got Saunders on a fly out before Ackley singled to center, scoring Seager, although Morales was thrown out in a rundown trying to reach third.
"I tried to throw a pitch I thought was good," Ross said. "I didn't really get it in a spot where it was unhittable, but he hit it and we had a good play on it. We got out of the inning, but I would've liked to have gotten out of there without giving up a run for Darvish because he's been out there battling the whole game. I tried to do the best I could."
Elvis Andrus doubled home a run with one out in the eighth to tie the game but also killed the rally by trying to take third on a pitch to Ian Kinsler he thought was in the dirt.
That left it tied when Nathan took over in the ninth. Chavez led off the inning with a single and was bunted to second by Humberto Quintero. Nathan got Brad Miller on a pop foul for the second out, walked Franklin and then got ahead 0-2 on Seager. But he couldn't put him away and Seager ripped a 1-2 slider down the right-field line for a go-ahead double.
"It was about ankle high when he hit it, which lets me know it's probably going to be in the dirt when it gets back to A.J.," Nathan said. "Right where I was attempting to throw it, the only thing is I'm not going to sit here and second guess. Obviously he was sitting on the pitch. I think everyone in the park knew he was looking for a slider, but usually when you put it in a decent location, it doesn't matter."