This Is The Yu Darvish The Rangers Paid For—Don’t Forget It

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It wasn’t Rangers’ righty Yu Darvish’s performance that was the most impressive thing in his 8 1/3 spectacular innings against the Yankees last night.

On paper and in practice, he looked great. Allowing 7 hits, 2 walks, striking out 10 and allowing no runs are all well and good, but it was the way he pounded the strike zone (119 pitches and 82 strikes) and displayed the presence and swagger of a star that provided a glimpse into his future.

Star power.

You either have it or you don’t.

The desire to be the center of attention in a big moment.

You either have it or you don’t.

Ability.

You either have it or you don’t.

Darvish has it.

All of it.

In spite of winning two of his first three starts, he’d done so in a shaky manner. His results echoed Barry Zito’s with control problems, wriggling in and out of trouble and always appearing to be on the verge of giving up 5 runs. He accumulated high pitch counts early in games; the Rangers’ bullpen was constantly on alert; he was nursed through and pulled before the games blew up from his walks.

In a game ripe for a meltdown with excuses at the ready (it’s the Yankees; he’s new to the league and North America; he’s getting used to the larger ball) Darvish displayed the stuff, composure and confidence that make him a top-of-the-rotation talent.

There are statistical suggestions that success in the post-season is a random occurrence; that the pitchers who’ve made a name for themselves in big games—John Smoltz, Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling, Dave Stewart, Orel Hershiser—were creatures of circumstance.

It’s nonsense.

Mentally handling pressure is just as important as ability in a big game.

Often, they’re wars of attrition.

Technically, for Darvish and the Rangers, last night’s game against the Yankees was a relatively meaningless start in April. But it wasn’t. Because it was Darvish vs Hiroki Kuroda and Darvish had pitched so inconsistently in his first three starts, the spotlight was on to see how he’d handle the Yankees’ bats and facing his countryman in front of millions of fans in Japan and across the world.

He didn’t survive the test. He embraced it as if to say, “This is my domain. Everyone’s watching and I’m giving them what they came to see. You wanna see something? Here it is.”

There are pitchers you trust in a big game. Darvish is one of those pitchers. He’s got that presence and the goods to back it up. He wants you and everyone else to know it.

Last night was just the beginning.

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4 thoughts on “This Is The Yu Darvish The Rangers Paid For—Don’t Forget It

  1. I was reading something just a few minutes ago that illustrated the difference between Darvish’s start last night and Derek Holland’s the night before. The key at-bats in both games came against A-Rod.

    Against Darvish, A-Rod did exactly what the pitcher wanted him to do. Against Holland, the opposite was true.

    Holland has good stuff and sometimes he’s unhittable, but he doesn’t have the cold stare of Andy Pettitte or the “my work is done here” jog off the field of Cliff Lee.

    Holland is still learning to bend the hitters’ will to his own. Darvish already has that and it’s starting to show. That’s what could eventually make him an ace and not just a #1.

    CJ Wilson always thought he had that. Or, at least, he thought that if he thought about it enough it would happen upon him. CJ wasn’t an ace, though. He was just a solid pitcher.

    I hope that Holland can become more than just a solid pitcher. If he doesn’t at least we’ve still got Darvish.

      1. I only mention Holland to illustrate that Darvish is starting to display the sort of mental dominance that you like to see from ace pitchers. Holland doesn’t have that. Not yet, anyway.

        A lot of fans around here forget that Holland was almost sent to AAA last year before turning it on for the last 3 months of the season. After his performance in the World Series, he reached an almost cult-like status. It got to the point where the masses were clamoring for him to start Game 7 in St. Louis instead of Matt Harrison.

        Holland is still growing up, but this isn’t really about Holland anyway. It’s all about Darvish today.

        (Though it should be noted that Holland and Darvish are the same age, for whatever that’s worth.)

      2. Two totally different situations. Darvish is a star and he loves attention. I was gonna write that you could start him in the first game of a playoff series, but I wouldn’t. Game 2. Don’t put too much on his plate. I’d absolutely trust him in a make-or-break game.

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