A pair of Japanese hurlers square off this evening when Texas' Yu Darvish opposes Hiroki Kuroda from New York in the middle test of a three-game series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
This will be the seventh matchup between Japanese starters and the first since 2010 when Kuroda, who was then part of the Los Angeles Dodgers, hurled eight shutout innings to defeat Hisanori Takahashi and the Mets, 2-0.
The other five matchups consisted of Kenshin Kawakami against Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2009, Matsuzaka against Tomo Ohka in '07, Ohka against Mac Suzuki in '02, Suzuki against Hideo Nomo in 2000 and Suzuki against Hideki Irabu in 1999.
Tonight's matchup, though, could be the biggest of them all, as it pits the fifth-winningest Japanese pitcher in Major League history (Kuroda) against perhaps the most-hyped hurler (Darvish) to come out of Japan.
"This is not a one-on-one game," Kuroda said, through a translator, when asked if facing Darvish would be a special matchup. "It's the Rangers against the Yankees. I'm going to do as much as possible so that our team is going to win."
Darvish, who the Rangers committed over $100 million to this offseason, has yet to live up to the hype, but has shown flashes at times and comes into tonight's tilt sporting a 2-0 mark to go along with a 3.57 earned run average. However, he has walked 13 batters in 17 2/3 innings.
"This is his fourth time, and as I said, he gets better with each one," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "I expect him to have another good one. I don't think he's thinking about [the matchup]. He's thinking about keeping his team in the game. It could be an American pitcher."
Darvish held the high-powered Tigers offense in check on Thursday, holding them to a run and two hits in 6 1/3 innings to get the win. He did walk five batters, though.
Kuroda, meanwhile, was awful in a loss to Minnesota on Wednesday, as he allowed six runs and 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings to fall to 1-2 on the year to go along with a 5.00 ERA.
The Yankees drew first blood in this series on Monday, as Derek Jeter had four hits, two runs scored and an RBI to propel New York to a 7-4 win. Alex Rodriguez added a three-run home run and Curtis Granderson knocked in a pair of runs for the Yankees, who earned their fourth straight win.
CC Sabathia (2-0) allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out eight through eight innings for the win. Mariano Rivera closed the door in the ninth for his fourth save of the year.
"I thought his command was much better tonight," said New York manager Joe Girardi about Sabathia. "I thought his slider and changeup were good. He did great mixing up his pitches."
Derek Holland (2-1) gave up seven runs on nine hits and four walks in six innings to suffer the loss.
"I didn't do a good job of attacking the zone right away," said Holland. A couple of pitches here and there weren't where they needed to be and they came back and got me."
Craig Gentry had two RBI as Texas lost for the second time in three games.
The Yankees won seven of their nine meetings with the Rangers last season. In fact, since 2002, the Yankees are the only American League team with a winning record against Texas in Arlington, going 26-14 in that building during that span.