Yu Darvish racks up 14 K's again

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Adam Eaton wasn't in the lineup May 27 when Texas Rangers strikeout artist Yu Darvish had 14 K's against the D-backs.

He knows now what his teammates went through that night against Major League Baseball's strikeout leader.

Darvish hit his magic number of 14 strikeouts again in the Rangers' 7-1 victory over the Diamondbacks on Thursday night, the fourth time he has done it this season.

The only other pitchers in baseball to match that total this season are Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox and Anibal Sanchez of the Detroit Tigers, both of whom struck out 14 once. Darvish has 186 strikeouts, 14 more than the New York Mets' Matt Harvey.

The first two innings told much of the story. Darvish got all six of his outs on strikeouts with three different pitches -- his four-seam fastball, his two-seam fastball and his slider.

"As a hitter you’ve got a lot of different thought processes in the box," Eaton said, "And when you hit your spot and have that many pitches, it’s tough as a hitter to put the ball in play and get good swings on balls."

Five of Darvish's first six punchouts came on swings and misses. Darvish got 14 swings and misses on the night as he made it through seven innings.

Eaton had a one-out single in the first inning on a night when Darvish may have had no-hit type of stuff. The Diamondbacks center fielder said Darvish was effective in the zone with all of his pitches, hitting his spots.

"That’s the recipe for a good outing for him," said Eaton, who struck out on a slider in the third inning.

The slider was dastardly for Darvish. He recorded seven of his strikeouts with the pitch. Darvish, who notched his 16th game with 10 or more punchouts, said there was a reason for that.

"My movement on my slider was real inconsistent," Darvish said. "Some were dropping down. Some were moving sideways. That worked in my favor, the inconsistency of my slider."

Darvish was clearly motivated for this start, though he didn't say so after the game. He took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth of that game in Arizona in late May and gave up a two-run home run to shortstop Didi Gregorius to tie the game. The Diamondbacks eventually won 5-4.

That might help explain why Darvish's fastball was sizzling Thursday night. He got it up to 98 mph against veteran Eric Chavez in the first inning.

"He pounded the strike zone," Texas manager Ron Washington said of Darvish. "He was just outstanding tonight. Everything he threw up there they couldn't get on."

Darvish made his third start since spending the time around the All-Star Game on the disabled list with a muscle issue in his back. He used the time off -- Darvish missed only one start -- to refine his fastball, tinkering with his delivery.

He has made three starts since and allowed one earned run in 19 1/3 innings. He has won twice to improve his record to 10-5. A lot of that has to do with a much improved fastball.

"It's as good of command as it's been," Washington said. "When he wants to get it up to 95 to 96 miles per hour he's been able to do that. The difference right now is the command. He's commanding on both sides of the plate."

Darvish, as he usually does, downplayed the effectiveness of his fastball.

"It was not as good a four-seam fastball as I had in my last outing," said Darvish, who lost a 1-0 game at Cleveland on Saturday. "But I was able to throw that pitch when I needed to in key situations."

Which suggests the fastball was pretty good. At least the Diamondbacks will tell you so.