Yu Darvish dazzles, but is his own worst critic

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington gushed about the breaking balls Yu Darvish spun Thursday night. Michael Young raved about the cut fastballs, and Adrian Beltre praised the pitch selection.

Darvish, though, was his own worst critic following the Rangers' series-clinching, 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

"I think I'm just lucky," Darvish said through an interpreter.

Lucky or not, Darvish offered yet another glimpse into the type of pitcher he can be for the Texas Rangers, both down the stretch and in the future. He became one of only four rookies in MLB history to win at least 16 games and record at least 200 strikeouts in a season. He surrendered a run on four hits while striking out nine in eight innings, extending his streak of quality starts to six and improving to 3-1 against the Angels. Darvish didn't necessarily out-duel Zack Greinke, who also gave up just one run on four hits in eight frames.

"My line and resulting numbers were great," Darvish said, "but the details and my command weren't."

Darvish (16-9) finished strong, striking out the side in the eighth with a bevy of sliders. He could have pleaded and begged to retake the mound in the ninth, but Washington had already gotten what he wanted.

"He deserved to win," Washington said.

Washington gave Darvish a huge hug in the dugout and, after Beltre belted the go-ahead two-run homer, closer Joe Nathan came in to earn his 34th save.

Darvish took another step in his progression. While most rookies fizzle toward the end of the season, Darvish has gotten stronger. He said he's learned a lot about himself the last month or so.

"Before the stretch I wasn't performing up to my abilities, but during this streak of good outings I've done what people expected of me," he said. "That's why they acquired me."

Darvish has 214 strikeouts, which ranks second on the all-time American League rookie strikeout list. Herb Score struck out 245 for the Indians in 1955, so Darvish needs 32 punch outs to set a new league record.

"He knows how to pitch, he knows how to get guys out," Beltre said. "He's got so many pitches, he can pick and choose."

In the end, Darvish might not have been impressed by his outing but there were plenty of others who were, including Angels right fielder Torii Hunter.

"He was the best I've seen him," Hunter said. "Darvish was really good. He threw the curveball, he threw his cutters hard and soft, he had the slider working. He threw strikes. I'm not used to him throwing strikes."