When Yu Darvish lost his eighth game of the season on August 8th at Boston things weren't looking so well. In fact Darvish had lost four of his previous six decisions (one being a no-decision) during a stretch that saw him give up 30 earned runs which elevated his ERA from 3.59 to 4.57. As a fan I was frustrated but I also knew what type of pitcher he could be and was almost to the point of saying "The Maddux brothers will work with him in the offseason and he'll be awesome next year" without stopping to think that we need him to be great, or at least really good, this season.
After that loss in Boston something happened. I don't know if that's when he dropped the "baggage" that manager Ron Washington referred to last night but he became more focused. In the three games since (including last night's 1-0 win against Tampa Bay) he has allowed six earned runs, walked eight while striking out twenty-eight and has seen his ERA drop back down to 4.31.
Last night against the Tampa Bay Rays he almost seemed ready for a meltdown as he started the game by trying to nibble at the plate and his command and control seemed off a tick. But he did show something that a lot of big league pitchers wish they had: the mental prowess to recover and get out of bad situations. In the second inning, with runners on second and third and nobody out, he retired the next three batters he faced. And then in the fourth the Rays had the bases loaded with one out and he managed to get out of the inning with a double play.
It was after that when I noticed a difference. He appeared to be attacking the strike zone more and stopped with the nibbling. In his next three innings of work he allowed one base hit while striking out six. Darvish and the team really needed that as James Shields was dealing for Tampa Bay and allowed just one run on a Kinsler solo home run in the bottom of the fourth.
Now he holds the Rangers rookie record for wins at thirteen, he leads the team with 182 strikeouts (Derek Holland is a distant second with 108) and his .233 opponents batting average is lowest among the starting pitchers.
So whether it's the baggage he dropped or working with new catcher Geovany Soto I have been really impressed with Yu Darvish lately and if he can continue to pitch this way, and Ryan Dempster continues to throw well and Matt Harrison remains as great as has been all year then I feel extremely good about this team's chances come October.
Until next time, I'll see you in the cheap seats!
James Holland is a lifelong fan of baseball and his hometown Texas Rangers. He is also a senior columnist for shutdowninning.com, clawandantlernation.com and a member of S.A.B.R. You can also follow him on Twitter @SDIJamesHolland.