"You can't ask a whole lot more than that," outfielder David Murphy said. "Tonight was about as good as you could do."Perhaps. Or perhaps not. "It's a very nice outing, pitching against the Yankees and a performance like that," Darvish said. "They've never seen me before, so I look at it like we'll see as the season goes along. I'd like to think there is more in me." This was sufficient for the Rangers on a night when Darvish pitched against countryman Hiroki Kuroda in a game that was broadcast live back in Japan. Darvish went 8 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and two walks while striking out 10. Darvish had a chance to finish the shutout, but Washington pulled him after a one-out single by Nick Swisher in the ninth. Closer Joe Nathan needed just one pitch to get Raul Ibanez to hit into a game-ending double play, and Darvish is now 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA after four starts. "Stuff-wise, there is not much difference, but my command is getting better," said Darvish, who featured a particularly devastating breaking ball and changeup, especially against the Yankees' left-handed hitters. "He's getting better every time he gets the ball," Washington said. "Every time he gets the ball, he gets more comfortable. He's starting to trust his catchers, they're trusting him and they're getting in sync. I expect the same going forward." Two things stood out about Darvish on Tuesday night. One is that he held the Yankees to 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, including the third inning, when they loaded the bases with no outs. Opponents are 3-for-21 with runners in scoring position against Darvish in his last three starts. "I thought he just did a great job," Yankees catcher Russell Martin said. "He didn't make too many mistakes in the zone. ... He just located his pitches well. He kept us off balance and didn't really make any mistakes. "We all ask each other, 'What was that pitch?' 'How is his ball moving?' 'What is his fastball doing?' When guys are executing pitches and not really giving you anything to drive, there's not much you can do." Secondly, Darvish threw 82 of his 119 pitches for strikes. Derek Jeter grounded out on the first pitch of the game, and Darvish spent all night getting ahead of hitters. "He was good," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "You hear a lot of guys get hyped; he was everything that you'd heard. I can't say enough. He pitched really well tonight. "We had a game plan to make him throw strikes. He definitely did that. If you tried to be patient, you're down 0-1, 0-2. If you tried to be aggressive, every pitch seemed like it started around the zone and moved out of the zone." A couple of other things helped Darvish. Kinsler gave him a 1-0 lead in the first inning, when he hit the third pitch from Kuroda over the left-field wall for a home run. An RBI single by Josh Hamilton made it 2-0 in the third, and the defense was excellent behind Darvish. Shortstop Elvis Andrus made a couple of particularly notable plays. "Outstanding," Washington said. "He played his tail off tonight. Everybody made plays." The third inning was the crucial moment, though, as the Yankees loaded the bases with nobody out on a single by Eric Chavez, a walk by Martin and Jeter's bunt single. The Yankees had Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano coming to the plate at that point. "I had to get Granderson out," Darvish said. "In that situation, I wanted to give up only one or two runs. That would have been OK." He did better than that. Darvish struck out Granderson looking on a 2-2 breaking ball, then got Rodriguez to hit a grounder down the third-base line. Adrian Beltre, back in the Rangers' lineup, fielded the ball on the run, stepped on third base and fired to first for an inning-ending double play. Darvish shook his fist in delight as he hopped off the mound. It was a huge moment on a memorable night when Darvish electrified the hometown crowd. "When you have a lot of fans in the Ballpark like this, as loud as they get, it does become electric," designated hitter Michael Young said. "They got pretty fired up when Yu was on the mound. It was a great environment." And possibly just a portent of things to come.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.