ARLINGTON, Texas – Yu Darvish is getting better each time out for the Texas Rangers.
The Japanese standout may already be getting to a point when he will have a hard time topping himself, after striking out 10 and pitching into the ninth inning of a 2-0 victory over the New York Yankees on Tuesday night.
"After my last start, I mentioned my command is starting to come together. Stuff-wise, there wasn't much difference," Darvish said through his interpreter. "I still like to think that there's still more in me."
Ian Kinsler put the Rangers ahead to stay when he led off the first with a deep homer to left center off Hiroki Kuroda (1-3), who limited Texas to two runs and five hits over 6 2-3 innings.
In only his fourth major league start, and the seventh-ever MLB matchup of Japanese starters, Darvish (3-0) worked out of some early jams and got through 8 1-3 scoreless innings even while allowing seven hits.
Effective with his large array of pitches, including a fastball in the upper 90s and several biting breaking balls, the 25-year-old right-hander had a season-low two walks, and the 10 strikeouts were the most by a Texas pitcher this season.
"He just keeps getting better every time he takes the ball. Tonight, he used everything he had, and he was effective, very effective. He's getting more and more comfortable," manager Ron Washington said. "He was pounding the strike zone. That's what you have to do against that team. He threw everything but the kitchen sink at them."
Washington was going to give him a chance to finish the game but pulled Darvish after Nick Swisher's one-out single on his 119th pitch, his 82nd strike.
Joe Nathan needed only one pitch to coax a game-ending double-play grounder by Raul Ibanez. It was his fifth save in six chances, closing out the Rangers' first shutout victory over the Yankees since Aug. 16, 2000.
The 37-year-old Kuroda, a righty in his fifth season in the majors, struck out five and walked one. Of the Rangers other 15 outs against him, 12 came on grounders and there were two popups.
But he was still outpitched by Darvish, who had the longest scoreless outing by a Rangers pitcher against New York since Bob Tewksbury's complete game shutout in July 1995.
"You hear a lot of guys get hyped and he was everything that you'd heard," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "We had a gameplan to make him throw strikes, and he definitely did that. If you tried to be patient you're down 0-1, 0-2. If you tried to be aggressive every pitch seemed like it started in the zone, then moved out of the zone."
The Yankees had the bases loaded with no outs in the third after Derek Jeter reached on a bunt single. Darvish initially failed to field the ball, apparently expecting someone else to get it.
But Darvish then got Curtis Granderson out on a called third strike before Alex Rodriguez grounded into an inning-ending double play.
"He had a full head of steam after that," Rangers designated hitter Michael Young said. "He started letting his fastball go late in the game, but he didn't sacrifice command for stuff. He was still locating well even though he started throwing harder."
Another sellout crowd at Rangers Ballpark broke into cheers of "Yuuuuuu!" that are already becoming quite routine after Granderson struck out, and again when third baseman Adrian Beltre fielded A-Rod's grounder near the bag, stepped on it and threw across the diamond.
Darvish walked off the mound clapping his hand on his glove while watching the replay on the huge video board.
"In that situation I thought to myself, this inning giving up one run or two runs, that was OK," he said. "Somehow I have to get Curtis Granderson out. ... Somehow, I just wanted (Rodriguez) to hit the ball on the ground."
After Robinson Cano hit a leadoff double in the fourth, Darvish needed only seven pitches to get out of that inning. Teixeira and Swisher both struck out swinging on three pitches before Ibanez grounded out on the first pitch he saw.
Darvish struck out the side in the seventh, getting Jeter on a called strike for the third out.
"He's good. You have to give credit to the way he pitched," Cano said. "He didn't miss any pitch over the plate."
The last matchup of Japanese-born starters was July 22, 2010, when Kuroda threw eight scoreless innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 2-0 win over the Mets and Hisanori Takahashi.
Darvish made his major league debut two weeks ago at Rangers Ballpark, allowing five runs in the first two innings but getting the win in an 11-5 victory over Seattle. Since those first two innings, he has allowed only two earned runs over 24 innings.
"My first outing, I got a standing ovation, but obviously wasn't really satisfied with the way I pitched," Darvish said. "Tonight, I was very appreciative."
Notes: Kinsler's fifth homer of the season extended his team record of leadoff homers to 21. ... Josh Hamilton had an RBI single in the third. That was a pitch after he lost control of his bat, which helicoptered and landed in fight field while Elvis Andrus stole second base. ... Yankees RHP Phil Hughes is scheduled Wednesday night to make his first start at Rangers Ballpark since May 25, 2009, when he allowed only three hits in a career-high-tying eight scoreless innings. ... RHP Scott Feldman, who has lost four of his last five decisions at Rangers Ballpark, pitches the series finale for Texas.