Published June 16, 2012
ARLINGTON, Texas – Here's the really bad news for the Houston Astros.
After this season, when the Astros move from the National League into the same American League division with the Texas Rangers, it is very likely they will have to face Yu Darvish multiple times each year.
Once is enough this time.
Darvish matched his major-league high with 11 strikeouts over eight innings and the AL West-leading Rangers won 6-2 on Friday night.
"He throws a lot of pitches," Astros third baseman Chris Johnson said. "Throws his breaking ball for a strike early in the count, spotted his pitches, spotted his fastball."
Johnson had a key error that led to a five-run fifth for the Rangers off Jordan Lyles (1-3), who gave up five runs in 4 1-3 innings for the second start in a row.
"It's something we definitely don't want to be a trend," manager Brad Mills said. "And it was really too bad because he said he doesn't feel like the game's getting away from him. But he was cruising along so well and throwing the ball so well, and even some of those hits really weren't stung, but they were still finding the holes."
After the throwing error by Johnson, Lyles hit a batter before the Rangers had five consecutive singles. That included two popups that fell for hits.
David Murphy's two-run single, a liner to center, was the hardest-hit ball by in the big inning by the Rangers, who have won 12 of their last 16 against Houston.
Ian Kinsler reached on the one-out error before Elvis Andrus was hit by a pitch. Michael Young's soft liner tied the game before Adrian Beltre hit a grounder out of reach of shortstop Jed Lowrie to drive in the tiebreaking run.
"You can call that inning my fault," Johnson said, referring to his error before all the bloops. "That's baseball, if guys put the bat on ball, they're going to fall in sometimes."
Nelson Cruz hit a popup that dropped behind second base in front of a charging Schafer in center field. Murphy lined a single up the middle before Yorvit Torrealba hit a blooper that dropped near the line in shallow right.
"They made an error, we took advantage of it," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "For a minute there, it looked like Lyles was on his way. We kept grinding out at-bats, and some good things happened for us."
Darvish got an extended break between starts after walking six and allowing six runs in 5 1-3 innings in a 7-1 loss at Oakland eight days earlier. He was 1-3 with a 6.53 ERA his previous four starts with 18 walks in 20 2-3 innings — all against teams he was facing for the second time in the majors.
The Japanese right-hander walked only two against Houston. He scattered seven hits and gave up two runs while throwing 76 of his 110 pitches for strikes.
"This time off, which was very positive for me, I was able to kind of reset my body and be able to pitch the way I want," Darvish said through his translator. "And going forward, I want to continue to have this type of production."
After Jordan Schafer's infield single to start the sixth, Darvish (8-4) struck out eight of the last 11 batters he faced — including the side in the eighth against the heart of the Astros order.
"The early part of the game, I was very careful throwing strikes and just feeling the rhythm of the game," Darvish said. "The second half, I gave it all and just went after them."
Darvish is 6-0 with a 3.15 ERA in six starts at Rangers Ballpark. Take out the first two innings of his debut — when he allowed five runs in what wound up being an 11-5 victory over Seattle — and that home ERA dips to 2.13.
He is the only pitcher in the majors with at least three starts at home to win every one of those games.
Joe Nathan worked the ninth in a non-save situation, allowing a hit with two strikeouts.
Mitch Moreland hit his 10th homer for Texas, a towering solo shot pulled into the second deck of seats in right field in the eighth.
Houston was ahead 1-0 in the third after Jose Altuve drew a leadoff walk, stole second base and scored on a single by Lowrie.
Justin Maxwell hit a two-out solo homer, his seventh of the season, on the first pitch he got in the seventh.
Notes: Darvish, who also struck out 11 May 6 at Cleveland, is the only Ranger to win his first six home starts. Only two pitchers in franchise history have won more consecutive home starts at any point in their career — Fergie Jenkins (eight in 1975) and Rick Honeycutt seven in 1983). ... Texas slugger Josh Hamilton was out after being hospitalized for dehydration caused by an intestinal virus. ... The Rangers plan to purchase the contract of RHP Justin Grimm from Double-A Frisco before Saturday's game to start his major league debut. Rookie righty Lucas Harrell (6-4) goes for the Astros.