ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was Yu-mania at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and the 25-year-old Japanese pitcher struggled with his command in the first inning, giving up four runs. But the Texas Rangers' offense went to work against Seattle Mariners starter Hector Noesi, and by the time Darvish left the mound with two outs in the sixth, he had a three-run lead. And he got the win.
Some quick thoughts on the game:
What it means: Darvish clearly wasn't at his best, but he got a win and he showed some grit by battling back after a terrible first inning. It gives him his first big league win in his debut and moves the Rangers to 3-1 on the season. Plenty more on Darvish coming on the blog.
Rough first: It was not the kind of first inning Darvish wanted. He threw 42 pitches (22 strikes) and allowed four runs on four hits with three walks. He had trouble with his command and gave up some two-strike hits. Pitching coach Mike Maddux came out to the mound and Scott Feldman was even warming up at one point. Darvish seemed unable to find his rhythm, possibly from early nerves, but he did settle down after allowing two doubles and another run in the second.
Confidence-building finish? Darvish not only managed to retire 10 in a row at one point, but he left with the Rangers in front despite giving up five runs in his big league debut. Darvish appeared to throw more two-seam fastballs after that first inning and let his defense go to work for him. The way he finished the outing has to help his confidence. He got a big cheer from the crowd of 42,003 in attendance, too.
Ichiro gets best of Darvish: The anticipated matchup between Japanese stars went to veteran Ichiro Suzuki, who was 3-for-4 off Darvish. He had bloop single in the first, a hard double in the third and a single in the sixth that ended Darvish's outing.
Boomstick is back: Nelson Cruz hammered a 357-foot three-run home run on a rope to left field in the third to tie the score at five apiece. Cruz was just 1-for-10 coming into the game, but certainly found his stroke. He had an RBI single in the first to center and then added three more runs batted in with the homer. Cruz had a slow spring, as well, but was healthy except for getting hit in the elbow on Tuesday. He had been wearing padding on that elbow but wasn't wearing it Monday.
Hard slide: Elvis Andrus slid hard into second base and forced shortstop Brendan Ryan to move pretty wide outside of the bag and make a wide throw on a double-play attempt. That pulled Justin Smoak off the first-base bag and kept the first inning going. Michael Young then singled to score a two-out run (Adrian Beltre sprinting to third) and Nelson Cruz scored Beltre with a single.
Aggressive baserunning: The Rangers did well running from first to third Monday, staying aggressive every chance they got. Beltre did it in the first and ended up scoring, and Josh Hamilton did it in the third.
Controversial call: Hamilton slid home in the third inning on Michael Young's ground ball and thought it he got his foot to the plate before the tag was applied by catcher Miguel Olivo (the throw was there ahead of Hamilton). Hamilton rarely argues a call, but he was not happy about it. Replays showed a close play, but it appeared Hamilton's foot got in ahead of the tag, and home plate umpire Paul Nauert would have had a tough time seeing that from where he was.
Finding rhythm: Beltre was hitless in the first two games but was 2-for-4 on Sunday and added two more hits Monday, both singles. Mitch Moreland was hitless in his two games this season but got his first hit on Monday, and it was a big one -- a two-run homer to right field to put the Rangers ahead 8-5.
Homer streak: Hamilton has a home run streak. After not hitting a long ball in the desert during spring training, Hamilton has hit one in two consecutive games. His homer Monday went to straightaway center and traveled an estimated 406 feet. Hamilton had three hits on the night and is hitting .467 this season (7-for-15).
Bullpen lineup: Rangers manager Ron Washington had things ready with his usual bullpen alignment on Monday, except that he asked Alexi Ogando to get him one more out (the final one in the sixth). Ogando pitched the seventh and Mike Adams the eighth. But after the Rangers extended the lead, Scott Feldman came out for the ninth instead of Joe Nathan, because it wasn't a save situation.
Kinsler homers again: For the second time in 2012, Ian Kinsler has had a homer in the first game of a series. He hit a three-run blast in the eighth inning, pushing the Rangers' lead to six runs. It was Kinsler's only hit of the night and came after he walked in the first and had three ground-ball outs to shortstop.
Debut for Gonzalez: Utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez came into the game in the ninth at third base for Beltre. It was his first action of the season in a Rangers uniform.