Despite struggles, Darvish getting job done

PHOENIX -- Yu Darvish is nasty. His slider is nearly unhittable, and his cut fastball is almost as lethal. In his second MLB season, the Japanese import has raised his game to another level. With that said, as good as Darvish is, he isn't perfect.

The same guy who leads Major League Baseball with 104 strikeouts -- and matched his career high Monday night by striking out 14 in a game for the third time this season -- recently finds himself susceptible to the mistake pitch.

The results have left the ballpark lately, as Darvish has allowed a home run in each of his past six games. Arizona Diamondbacks rookie shortstop Didi Gregorius tagged him for a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth inning Monday night, tying the game at 4-all in an eventual 5-4 walk-off loss for the Rangers. Gregorius also tripled off Darvish in Arizona's two-run first inning with a blast that barely missed leaving Chase Field.

Speaking of which, another trend that has emerged with Darvish is his penchant for giving up first-inning runs. Arizona scored twice in the first inning, and 11 of the 25 runs Darvish has allowed this season have come in the opening frame. After allowing a single and triple to start the game, Darvish not only settled down, but was dominant and scattered four hits until the game-tying home run. His slider was so nasty, it knocked Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra out of the game when he tweaked his left leg while swinging and missing on a third-strike pitch.

"They got two runs off him at the beginning and two runs late," manager Ron Washington said. "He pitched well. Unfortunately, one pitch made the difference in the ballgame late. We needed him to go deep into the ballgame, and he did that for us."

While Darvish has allowed three or four runs in five of his past six starts, he hasn't taken the loss in any of those games. All any manager asks of his pitcher is to keep the team in the game. Darvish has done that because he doesn't allow many baserunners and his walk total is down from a year ago. He also strikes out batters by the bunch, as he is on pace for 300 this season. But the only number that matters to Darvish is team wins.

"I don't really care about that number because baseball is not a competition about strikeouts, it's about wins," said Darvish, who allowed four runs on seven hits while striking out 14 in 7⅔ innings.

With his 7-2 record and deadly pitching repertoire, those wins figure to come.