Yu Darvish's finger and stamina are both fine enough for him to try and build on the best outing of his young major league career.
After coming within an out of a perfect game in his season debut, Darvish takes the ball for the Texas Rangers in Sunday night's decisive series finale against Jered Weaver and the visiting Los Angeles Angels.Darvish, an All-Star who went 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA after coming over from Japan last season, struck out a career-high 14 and had thrown 8 2/3 perfect innings Tuesday when Houston shortstop Marwin Gonzalez singled up the middle. Darvish was pulled after the hit in Texas' 7-0."He was nasty," manager Ron Washington said. "I mean, his ball was moving all over the place. He had his cutter working. He had a breaking ball. He threw some splits. He threw a couple of changeups. He threw very few four-seamers. To watch it after the fact, I said he was dominating."Darvish developed a blister on his ring finger but insists that won't be a problem Saturday. Washington, however, seemed more concerned with the 111 pitches Darvish threw. He threw a high of 78 pitches during spring training and felt tired as the game went on Tuesday, but feels ready after throwing 29 in the bullpen Friday."It's been a good process of recovery," Darvish told the Rangers' official website.That's obviously good news for the Rangers (3-2), who look to rebound from an 8-4 to Los Angeles (2-3) on Saturday."The thing is, we have a chance each time he takes the mound and that's important," Washington said. "Whatever happens in nine innings after that, it happens. But I'm certainly not looking for him to go out there every night and dazzle people the way he did (Tuesday). I expect him to go out every night and keep us in ball games. That's all."Darvish, who went 3-1 with a 4.23 ERA in six starts against the Angels in 2012, gets the chance to face former Ranger Josh Hamilton.The five-time All-Star is 1 for 20 with two RBIs and 10 strikeouts for the Angels, and again heard boos from Rangers fans Saturday."We're only five games into the season. Let the guy settle down," said new teammate Albert Pujols, who homered twice and had three RBIs on Saturday. "Let's see where we are a month from now. You guys said that last year about me and I proved a lot of people wrong."Pujols, who didn't hit his first homer until May 6 in his first season in Los Angeles, was 1 for 14 with two RBIs in this season's first four games.Weaver, who allowed a run, two hits, two walks with four strikeouts in six innings of Monday's 3-1, 13-inning win at Cincinnati, won't look too much into facing Darvish in this prime-time matchup."I try not to get too caught up in matchups," Weaver told the Angels' official website. "It'll be a challenge facing these guys, as it always is. They're a good club with some dangerous hitters."The right-hander gave up eight runs and 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings of a 13-6 loss at Texas on May 13, but posted a 2.63 ERA while winning his next four against the Rangers in 2012.Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus is batting .383 (23 for 60) with four doubles and two homers against Weaver, but is 2 for 13 in the last three games.Los Angeles star Mike Trout is 6 for 17 (.353) with two homers and a double against Darvish.
Jered Weaver has allowed a .194 batting average in at-bats ending with his fastball since the start of last season, lowest among pitchers who qualified for the ERA title. During that span, the Texas Rangers hit .290 in at-bats ending in a fastball, second best in the AL.