Darvish tunes out distractions, regains top form

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Yu Darvish has stopped trying to please so many people. As a result, he's pleasing the Texas Rangers like never before.
After a hot start and then the typical rookie struggles, Darvish heard about how he needed to be more aggressive with his fastball or how one tweak or another might help him harness his wide variety of pitches. It led to a three months of getting further and further away from the pitcher the Rangers believed him to be.
That started to change when Ron Washington called Darvish into his office for a pep talk that ended with the manager expressing confidence in the starter and urging him to simply do what he was most comfortable with.
It seems to have made all the difference in the world.
Over his last three starts, Darvish has gotten better and better, culminating with seven shutout innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday in the Rangers' 1-0 win. It was his third consecutive quality start. It's the first time since starts Nos. 3-5 of the season that he's posted three consecutive quality starts. Darvish has allowed six runs in 20 2/3 innings in that stretch (2.61 ERA) while posting a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate (28-to-7). Even being idle for 10 days due to a strained quadriceps couldn't derail him.
"He was carrying a lot of baggage," Washington said. "I think he dumped the baggage, so we've got Yu Darvish now.
In explaining the "baggage," Washington said, "He was trying to impress a ton of people. Right now, the only thing he's concerned about is impressing Yu Darvish. And once he does that, it impresses everyone else."
Darvish said, "As my manager said, that's exactly what I'm doing right now, just focusing on pitching. I'm competing against the hitters, not worrying about the outside stuff or even giving up walks. Just pitching right now."
Darvish mixed his pitches extremely well Tuesday, using his fastball less than 50 percent of the time and relying more than usual on a cutter.