Well, here we go:
● So, there's obviously far more to be said about what Yu Darvish did tonight than what can be contained within a two-paragraph blurb, but the big takeaways from tonight -- and the ones that we're going to remember some years down the line if Darvish performs up to the lofty expectations that we have all set -- are that Darvish found some mechanical consistency, got comfortable and hit a groove where he found that he could do whatever he wanted successfully, and, for the lack of better phrasing, went to town on an overmatched Yankees lineup. Tonight was the night that the ace-caliber upside actualized for the first time on this side of the Pacific Ocean, and while I haven't yet combed through all of the innings that I missed, I will, based on what I have seen and heard to this point, go ahead and echo Jason Parks on this particular sentiment:
What's scary is that Darvish has the all components necessary to pitch even better than this. This is just a taste of the ceiling.— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) April 25, 2012
Eighty-two of his 119 pitches were strikes, with only Justin Verlander and Matt Garza logging more strikes in any given start thus far this season. Of those 82 strikes, 15 were swinging whiffs, with nine of those being of the strike-three variety. After logging just 56.8 percent of his pitches for strikes during his first three starts, Darvish threw at least 61 percent of his pitches for strikes in each of his first eight innings. After hitting 46 pitches after only three innings and finding himself on pace to make it only 6-7 innings, Darvish required just 65 pitches to record his next 15 outs. After Derek Jeter's two-out double in the fifth inning, the Yankees never made it past second base again. There's more that needs to be said about this start, but a picture alone is worth a thousand words, and Darvish just painted a masterpiece.
● The box score says 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored on Elvis Andrus, but if there's a secondary hero in tonight's narrative, your gaze will inevitably turn towards Andrus, who, as you might have already guessed or witnessed, swiped second base after working that walk, and then came across moments later on Josh Hamilton's run-scoring single ... and then put on a clinic demonstrating why he's one of the 2-3 best defensive shortstops in baseball right now, which I'm looking forward to capturing in .gif form. Ian Kinsler provided the other end of an otherwise anemic two-run showing with a solo blast to lead off the game, with the offense doing basically nothing after the third inning. It happens. To frame this all in slightly better context, the Rangers went 6-13 last year in games where they plated only two runs.
● A couple of weeks ago, Jason Cole tweeted something that kind of stuck with me:
The Rangers' telecast has to be the only one that consistently takes the attention away from baseball late in close games, right?— Jason Cole (@LoneStarDugout) April 12, 2012
That same thing didn't exactly transpire tonight (perhaps more because Darvish wouldn't allow it to happen), but with the bases juiced in the third inning and the Rangers clinging to a narrow one-run lead in a comparatively high-leverage spot, Tom Grieve deviated from the game altogether and stopped down for a nice cookies-and-shoutouts discussion. Look, I get it. Fans shower the booth with gifts (edible and otherwise), and they feel obligated to show the people some love, and I don't have a problem with that, per se ... but doesn't that strike anyone else as a horrendous bit of timing, given the importance of the game situation and, for that matter, the significance of the matchup?
● Apropos of nothing in particular: Joe Nathan ended the game on a first-pitch ground out double play. The last Rangers pitcher to throw only a single pitch during his outing and record two outs with that pitch was Darren Oliver, back on April 30th, 2010. Before that? Frank Francisco, on July 8th, 2007. And before that? Rudy Seanez, back on September 7th, 2002, who was the only Rangers pitcher to end a game on a double play while throwing only one pitch dating back to the beginning of the pitch count era (1988-present, before which pitch counts were not recorded), and who was summoned in the ninth inning of an eventual 12-2 win after Chan Ho Park yielded four consecutive ninth-inning walks. No Rangers pitcher in the pitch count era had ever recorded a two-out save on a single pitch ... until now.