Don't put this loss on Darvish

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers lost another game that Yu Darvish started Monday night.

Take the count up to five in a row. Oh, and take two aspirin and call the doctor in the morning.

Yes, night's like Pirates 1, Rangers 0 are painful. Especially in September, in the middle of a pennant race that now finds Texas two games behind idle Oakland.

Forget the cramp that wasn't a cramp in Darvish's lower right leg that forced him out of the game after the seventh inning. This is getting to be a collective headache for Darvish, his teammates, manager Ron Washington, the fan in Section 323.

Three times Darvish has lost 1-0 this season. Three times: May 21 at home against Oakland, July 27 in Cleveland and now Sept. 9 at home again against Pittsburgh.

There have been 14 1-0 games since Rangers Ballpark opened in 1994. That's 20 seasons. Two of the 1-0 games have been 1-0 losses for Darvish this season.

Darvish was asked after the game how to explain this 1-0 phenomenon after saying that he had a cramping symptom, but not cramps, in his right leg that forced him out of the game after an efficient, somewhat stunning 81 pitches in seven innings.

Darvish did his best to explain his 1-0 misery.

"This is what it is," said Darvish, who has lost three straight starts for the first time in his career. "It's baseball. Sometimes, the offense can't score a run. Some days, you might score 20 runs. Some days, you might throw a no-hitter and not win. The hitters did their best and I did my best."

On that last part, Darvish is right. He did do his best. He was at his best. He was flat out dominant Monday night. Unfortunately, so was Pirates' 23-year-old right-hander Gerrit Cole, who has a huge future in this game.

Cole was able to escape his one big jam with runners at second and third and two outs in the sixth and the Rangers' best hitter, Adrian Beltre, at the plate. Only Beltre is struggling. He was in a 1-for-21 skid before grounding out to shortstop to end the inning.

Beltre did have a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth, but the game ended on a groundout by A.J. Pierzynski. Beltre is confident he'll break out of his slump. So is everyone else.

"I'm not frustrated at all," he said.

Darvish bounced back from his worst and most frustrating start of the season in Oakland on Wednesday with one of his best performances. He gave up four hits, two of them consecutive two-out doubles in the top of the seventh that produced the only run of the game.

Darvish made a statement by averaging 11.6 pitches per inning against the Pirates. For the season, he's averaging 16.3 pitches per inning. That's astounding efficiency for Darvish.

This is the Darvish the Rangers want to see -- the attacking Darvish. Not the one that didn't trust his stuff, or feel good about his stuff, in Oakland when he was all over the place and allowed five runs in five innings in an 11-4 loss to the A's.

"Today, I was able to focus and concentrate, especially after my last outing," Darvish said. "I thought about it for a long time and things I should think differently. Tonight, I was able to just concentrate, almost to the point where, 'Here, I'm going to throw it right down the middle. Go ahead and hit.' I really attacked the hitters and really focused on competing tonight."

Darvish said he talked to different people -- he didn't elaborate with whom -- and apparently decided he needed to focus on the mental side for this start.

He was going down with his best stuff. He challenged Pedro Alvarez in the fifth inning and got him to hit into a double play to keep the game scoreless.

"That was something," Darvish said, "I'm going to throw this pitch, and it's going to be the best pitch tonight and he hit into a double play, instead of thinking I can't throw it here because I don't want to get hit. That's not the right way to think. I stayed positive and competed."

He faced Alvarez again in a key situation in the top of the seventh with a runner at second and two outs. Darvish went with a split-fingered fastball. Alvarez won the battle this time with a line-drive double to center field.

"Any other hitter, I still get a swing and miss on it," Darvish said. "I thought I threw the best pitch at the time to get him out, and he got a hit."

With the high expectations on Darvish, he's expected to win 1-0 on these nights. Or 2-1. Or whatever it takes.

That's fair, to a point. But on nights like Monday, when Darvish is electric, it's unfair to pin the loss on him. This is baseball.

Darvish had a plan, he followed it and he attacked hitters. He just didn't win.

"He's got such great stuff, sometimes you feel like he's nibbling a little bit," catcher Geovany Soto said. "But today, man, he was attacking. He was really attacking. I thought he was pitching magnificent. I don't have enough words for it. He was magnificent."

On Saturday against Oakland, you better believe the Rangers will take another one of these.