ARLINGTON, Texas -- Yu Darvish is always looking for an edge. And going into Wednesday's game against the Oakland A's, Darvish and catcher Yorvit Torrealba talked about using his fastball as an out pitch.
"These teams study me just like I study them," Darvish said through interpreter Joe Furukawa. "In previous starts I was going to my breaking ball as out pitch. Knowing that, I was able to use my fastball hard in and up in the zone to get some outs."
Quality starts are becoming the norm for Darvish. He earned his fifth quality start in his last six outings -- the only start that wasn't a quality one was the game in which he returned after a nearly two-hour rain delay to still pitch 5 1/3 innings. Against the A's, Darvish gave up just one run (in the first inning) on four hits in 7 2/3 innings. He had two walks and seven strikeouts in the 4-1 win. It was Darvish's sixth win of the season, the most by any rookie in the majors this season. He's now 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA and 53 strikeouts with 22 walks in his last seven starts.
And he did it by getting ahead in the count and then adding more changeups than he's thrown all season and mixing his pitches in a variety of counts, keeping hitters off-balance. In the process, he gave the Rangers bullpen a much-needed break after they were needed the past two nights.
"He needed to save the bullpen," manager Ron Washington said. "Tonight he helped us catch up."
Darvish was also more efficient than he has been in a while. He needed 118 pitches to get through 7 2/3 innings. It took him 112 to throw six innings in Cleveland earlier this month. He said he felt like he had an easy motion Wednesday and felt fine physically, even after he had to stay loose during a one-hour, 56-minute rain delay against the Angels on Friday night.
"It was nothing different from my previous outing," Darvish said. "I was able to rest my body and get my work in."
Darvish also decided to change up his uniform choice. The starting pitcher chooses the uniform and Darvish decided on red.
"The last two nights we wore blue and didn't play our game," Darvish said. "I wanted to change it up. I heard some of the position players like playing in red."
They played well behind him, too. The Rangers, who had some defensive breakdowns in the Royals series, made all the plays on Wednesday. Adrian Beltre ranged to his right to take away a double and get an out. Craig Gentry scampered to one of the deeper parts of the park to catch a hard-hit fly ball, and Darvish stabbed a chopper headed his way.
Mike Adams came in with two on and two outs in the eighth to relieve Darvish and got a strikeout. Joe Nathan closed the game out with three straight strikeouts. So Darvish's good night was completed with a perfect one from the bullpen.
"He's doing exactly as advertised," Washington said about Darvish. "He's keeping the team in the ballgame. He's got strikeout stuff. Every time he takes the ball, you might see something new from him."