On Sunday, Darvish wasn't feeling any pain; he was just causing it for the Nationals hitters who had been pounding on the Rangers for two days.
With the Rangers fielding a lineup even more depleted than usual, Darvish held the Nationals scoreless for eight innings in a 2-0 victory on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park. Joakim Soria set down the side in order in the ninth as the Rangers recorded their 11th shutout of the season.
"Today was about pitching, and Yu did that," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He gave us a chance to scratch some runs. Today, it was about getting that one run.
"We just needed Yu to pitch well, and he pitched well. We didn't need shutout baseball, but he couldn't give up a lot of runs. We needed a well-pitched ballgame."
They did because their lineup -- besides those already on the disabled list -- were missing outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and first baseman Mitch Moreland. Both were given the day off by Washington. Michael Choice was supposed to replace Choo, but he was scratched with a bruised left shin.
So Daniel Robertson had to play left field with his clear plastic mask to protect multiple cheek fractures, and Donnie Murphy started at first base for the first time in his career. Both ended up contributing to the win, and the Rangers finished their road trip 7-4 after losing the first two games to the Nationals.
"That team for two days swung the bats at will and knocked the ball out of the ballpark," Washington said. "We needed to slow them down, and Yu slowed them down. He was outstanding."
Darvish was scratched from his previous start with a stiff neck, but that wasn't an issue on Sunday. He did get a little tired at the end, but it didn't keep him from bumping his record to 5-2 with a 2.08 ERA on the season.
"I was able to go deep in the game and contribute to the win, so I was very glad," Darvish said. "I got a little tired, but I was able to do my job."
Darvish allowed five hits, two walks and struck out 12. The Nationals were 0-for-6 against him with runners in scoring position. He ended up throwing just 102 pitches, which averaged out to 12.75 per inning. He entered the game averaging 15.7 pitches per inning.
"He was just getting ahead of guys," catcher Chris Gimenez said. "He did a great job of attacking hitters and staying after it. We also did a good job of mixing in his other pitches after we saw hitters for the second time."
"We just caught a really good pitcher on a day when he had really good stuff," Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "When guys can mix up four or five different pitches, all different speeds and locations, it makes it tough to sit on any one pitch. A big part of it is having those pitches, and also his location and being able to run it up there 96 [mph] when he wants to.
"I know we chased some pitches, but overall, he wasn't leaving anything over the middle of the plate. He was painting corners. We were just struggling to put the ball in play on some of these pitches."
Darvish beat Nationals starter Tanner Roark, the former Rangers Minor Leaguer who pitched well himself. He matched Darvish with six scoreless innings before giving up a seventh-inning home run to Leonys Martin.
Murphy led off the seventh with a single and the Rangers tried a hit-and-run on the first pitch. Martin swung and missed, and Murphy was thrown out at second base. Martin then hit the next pitch -- a changeup -- into the Nationals' bullpen.
The Rangers went the final six games of May without hitting a home run and finished the month with 20. That's their lowest home run total for May since 1994. Martin's homer was just the fifth by the Rangers on their 11-game road swing.
"I didn't get a good pitch [on the hit-and-run], but then he threw me a changeup," Martin said. "I made a very good swing on it and made very good contact."
The Rangers added another run in the eighth after Drew Storen replaced Roark. Robertson led off with a single and was bunted to second by Elvis Andrus. Alex Rios struck out and Adrian Beltre was intentionally walked before Murphy lined a single to center to bring home Robertson.
"You take that stuff personally when the other team doesn't think you're that good," said Murphy, who had three hits in the No. 5 spot. He also had no trouble at first base, though his chances were limited because of Darvish.
"He was definitely on his 'A' game," Murphy said. "From my angle, it was fun, it looked like their guys were missing him by a foot."