Darvish had his 10th career 10-strikeout game, in his 33rd start in the major leagues, and the Rangers had a six-run inning that doubled their previous highest-scoring frame of the year in a 7-0 win over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
"We know what we're capable of as an offense. You can't do that every night," said Ian Kinsler, whose RBI double capped that breakthrough inning. "That was big for Yu, and big for our club. I think we all want to get it going earlier."
In his first start in a week, Darvish allowed only three hits and walked three over seven scoreless innings.
Darvish had last started the previous Friday night at Seattle, when he gave up three runs in the first inning of a 3-1 loss. The Rangers had planned in advance to skip the Japanese ace's scheduled start at the Chicago Cubs because of the cool weather -- and the game that would have been his turn to pitch ended up being rained out anyway.
"I don't know if that many days of rest affected my pitching," Darvish said through his translator. "But I'd rather have pitched today than yesterday in cold weather in Chicago."
Seattle, the only team that has beaten Darvish three times, has now gone 12 innings in a row without a run against right-hander from Japan.
"He threw more curveballs than he did in Seattle. He also threw more fastballs. He didn't a really good fastball (in Seattle). Tonight, he threw a lot more for strikes," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "Yu has so many pitches and they're all good. It's hard to pick one."
Darvish said he finally got command of his fastball after the second inning, after he already had six strikeouts, and had a different style than his previous start against the Mariners. He threw 42 pitches those first two innings, with two walks and a single scattered between all the whiffs.
In the AL wild-card playoff game at Texas last October, Saunders pitched into the sixth and won for the Baltimore Orioles in their 5-1 victory over Darvish. But the left-hander is now 0-7 with a 9.91 ERA in seven regular-season starts at Rangers Ballpark, the first six for the Los Angeles Angels.
Saunders allowed seven runs and nine hits over 4 2/3 innings this time. He walked three with no strikeouts and was gone after Craig Gentry's two-run triple in the fifth.
"It was a weird game, weird innings where you make a pitch and they find a hole," Saunders said. "You tell yourself to keep making pitches and keep hitting spots and things will turn around. Things just kind of started snowballing on us."
The Rangers loaded the bases in the fifth on two singles and a walk before Pierzynski snapped a 4-for-25 skid with a two-run single. Another run scored when David Murphy grounded out before Gentry sent a drive that rolled to the wall after left fielder Raul Ibanez slipped and fell when trying to field the ball that then bounced over his head. Gentry scored on Kinsler's hit off reliever Hector Noesi.
The Mariners had 13 strikeouts overall, and have 44 their last three games. They had 19 strikeouts Wednesday against Detroit, and followed with 12 more on Thursday.
Robbie Ross got all three of his outs on strikeouts in his scoreless inning after relieving Darvish, even as Seattle loaded the bases.
Michael Kirkman pitched the ninth to close out the Rangers' third shutout of the season. Seattle was held scoreless for the first time this season.
The first Seattle out not a strikeout came with speedy Endy Chavez leading off the third. Chavez tried to bunt for a hit, but Darvish bounced off the mound for a barehanded grab of the ball in front of Gold Glove-winning third baseman Adrian Beltre and threw out Chavez by a step.
Asked about that play, Darvish had a slight grin responding, "I think I was better than Beltre, what do you think about that?"
Texas, which lost 6-2 at Chicago on Thursday, and Atlanta are the only teams without consecutive losses this season. ... Seattle hasn't won consecutive games since starting the season 2-0. .. Murphy was mired in a 4-for-31 slump before a pair of opposite-field hits that preceded his RBI grounder. ... CF Franklin Gutierrez was out of the Mariners starting lineup for a second straight game with tightness in his groin though he felt better. ... Seattle 3B Kyle Seager had his majors-leading ninth double. ... Gentry had two hits in 16 at-bats before a bloop to right-center with two outs in the fourth that he turned into a double. That was an inning before his triple. ... Seattle OF Michael Saunders, who has been on the disabled list since April 11 with a sprained right shoulder, took batting practice Friday and may resume throwing in the next couple of days.
As so many players arrive in spring training wearing new uniforms, we're reminded of the old Jerry Seinfeld barb. But with team turnover now so dramatic from year to year, the game depends on fans cheering for clothes.
What do you get when you combine a revitalized rotation with an elite lineup? For Chicago, it might just add up to another World Series at Wrigley.
Free-agent reliever Carlos Torres and the Cleveland Indians have agreed to a minor league contract.
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman compared his team to "The Little Engine That Could" after being asked how he viewed the Yankees in relation to their American League East rival, the Boston Red Sox.
The Tampa Bay Rays have agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal with outfielder Carlos Gomez, MLB.com reported Wednesday.
Outfielder Colby Rasmus has decided to return to baseball after walking away this past summer, and he has signed a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles.