When the Texas Rangers went out in the offseason and landed Yu Darvish they did not set out to get a pitcher to win 20 games, strikeout 300 batters, throw no-hitters, make All-Star teams or win Cy Young awards. They set out to get an "ace." They were in search of someone who could win games in October. Yes, that person needed to win games from April until September, but they needed that arm for October that can take the ball and give their team a chance to win no matter what the rest of the team is doing.
Tonight his hour will have finally arrived. Tonight is what it is all about and we will see how Darvish is on that October stage. October is when you see what big league pitchers are really made of and Darvish will have the opportunity to display that "makeup" that the Rangers have long seen. Plenty of pitchers have been able to dominate the summer months, but when the leaves start changing colors, few are able to take their game to that next level.
As this season has gone along, Darvish has gotten stronger. During the month of September, he went 3-0 in five starts with a 2.21 ERA, 0.736 WHIP and struck out 5.57 batters to every walk allowed. His best strikeout/walk ratio before September was June and it was 2.67. There is no question that Darvish is much better prepared now than he was in April. He has matured and looks completely ready to take the ball in the most important game of his life.
It is unfortunate that most of his teammates look like they are on life support, but those are the things than an "ace" has to deal with. They have to have what it takes when nobody else does. When a team can't score runs, an "ace" has to keep the other team off the board. When a bullpen can't get outs, they have to work deeper in games than ever before. When the opposing team has momentum, the "ace" has to take it away. It takes a team to win a baseball game, but the one time that can change a bit is when a game changer is on the mound. Darvish is a game changer and his team needs him on Friday night.
One game can change it all and while the Rangers have not looked anything like a playoff team for months, this is what they have been waiting on. In all honesty, they never set out to win the American League West, they set out to win the World Series. Tonight begins a new season and they have the opportunity to set out in pursuit of that goal. They have a pitcher that looks like he can be an "ace" in the big leagues, but that can never be truly determined until October rolls around. After tonight, we will know.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.