Yu Darvish has so far lived up to expectations during his first major league season, but he hasn’t been at his best in two starts against the Seattle Mariners.
The Texas Rangers’ All-Star right-hander will get his chance for a better performance against the Mariners on Saturday night but will have to pitch opposite Felix Hernandez.
Darvish (10-5, 3.59 ERA) enters the second half as a strong contender for AL rookie of the year as he’s among that league leaders in victories and strikeouts (117). That’s exactly what the Rangers (53-34) were looking for when they signed him to a six-year, $56 million deal in January.
Before coming to the major leagues, Darvish was a two-time MVP and five-time All-Star over seven seasons in Japan.
“With Yu Darvish, I think he’s come over to the United States under some very tough circumstances,” manager Ron Washington told the team’s website. “Not knowing anything about the league, not knowing anything about the players, having to adjust to the baseball, having to adjust to the mound, having to adjust to the different culture shock that he has to go through.
“And I truly believe because he’s a tremendous athlete and he’s a tremendous young man, he’s made adjustments faster than we expected.”
For all his highlights, Darvish hasn’t produced any against light-hitting Seattle (36-52) as he’s 1-1 with an 8.38 ERA in two matchups. He hasn’t posted an ERA higher than 4.50 against the other nine teams he’s faced.
During his most recent matchup with the Mariners, Darvish gave up five runs and six walks over four innings at Safeco Field on May 21. Hernandez (6-5, 3.13), meanwhile, allowed one run over eight innings and struck out seven during that 6-1 win, which snapped a personal four-game skid against Texas.
Hernandez, among the AL leaders with 128 strikeouts, is 2-0 with a 1.75 ERA over his last five starts but has received one run or fewer in four of those outings. He got one run in Oakland on Sunday and did not get a decision despite allowing one run over 7 2-3 innings.
Seattle is batting .183 with 32 runs scored in its last 15 games, and was shut out for the first eight innings of Friday’s series opener, a 3-2 defeat.
“Those guys, they’re trying very hard,” Hernandez said. “They want to score runs. I believe in this team. I believe in these guys. We’re going to be better. It cannot happen all the time so we’re going to be better.”
Adrian Beltre, meanwhile, hit a two-run homer as Texas won its third in a row following a season-high five-game skid. Beltre is hitting .398 with six homers and 19 RBIs over his last 24 games, and .340 in his last 12 matchups with his former club.
The third baseman is 3 for 12 (.250) with one home run all-time against Hernandez, while Josh Hamilton has fared even worse, going 8 for 45 (.178) with 13 strikeouts, his most versus any pitcher in his career.
Ichiro Suzuki, a former three-time MVP in Japan, is 5 for 7 with a triple and a double against Darvish.