Unbeaten Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish improved to 4-0 in his first Major League Baseball season on Monday, striking out nine batters in seven innings for Texas in a 4-1 victory in Toronto.
The 25-year-old right-hander threw 62 of his 97 pitches for strikes and continued a progression of looking more impressive with every North American start as the Rangers improved to 17-6, the best mark in the major leagues.
“The biggest thing is just getting used to the atmosphere of being in the major leagues,” Darvish said through a translator. “There’s just a comfort, a feeling better, that has made me able to get better.”
The Rangers, who lead the American League West division by six games over Seattle after the first month of the six-month regular season, spent US$107.7 million to obtain Darvish from the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Darvish, a two-time Japan League Most Valuable Player, signed a six-year deal with Texas for US$56 million and the rest of the money went to the Hokkaido-based Fighters just for the right to negotiate with Darvish.
Darvish made five starts before allowing his first North American home run, giving up a round-trip blast to the Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion in the fourth inning, but the Japanese ace allowed only four hits over seven innings.
“I’m certainly impressed with his work ethic,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Darvish. “I’m impressed with the way he fits in my clubhouse. I’m impressed with the way he interacts with his teammates. I’m impressed by how quick he makes adjustments on the fly.”
Darvish has a 2.18 earned-run average, which is not bad for a pitcher who surrendered five runs in the first two innings of his Rangers career only three weeks earlier.
“I’ve been impressed with his stuff,” Washington said. “He can sink it, he can run it, he can hop it, he can slow it down, he can make it quick, he can cut it, split it — he can do everything with the baseball. It’s just a matter of using that stuff at the proper time.”
YANKEES 2, ORIOLES 1
In New York, Hiroki Kuroda pitched seven neat innings and combined with catcher Russell Martin to nab Nick Markakis at the plate in the key play of the game, lifting the Yankees over Baltimore.
Eric Chavez hit an early two-run homer as the Yankees beat Baltimore once again. They are 4-0 against the Orioles this year, 43-15 over the O’s since 2009 and have not lost any of the past 14 season series against them.
The loss denied Buck Showalter his 1,000th win as a major league manager — his first victory came in 1992 next door at the old Yankee Stadium. Baltimore lost for the second time in eight games.
New York made several sparkling plays in the field, including two by novice left fielder Eduardo Nunez.
Kuroda (2-3) allowed one run and four hits while outpitching steady Jason Hammel (3-1).
David Robertson struck out the side in the eighth for the Yankees and Mariano Rivera closed for his fifth save in six chances.
RED SOX 11, ATHLETICS 6
In Boston, David Ortiz finished the best month of his career with a pair of solo homers and Mike Aviles hit a three-run shot in Boston’s victory over Oakland.
Darnell McDonald had a two-run homer and Marlon Byrd drove in a pair of runs to support Clay Buchholz (3-1), who held Oakland to one run until he gave up five in the seventh inning.
Ortiz hit .405 last month with six homers and 20 RBIs. He batted .543 at Fenway Park (19 for 35).
It was Boston’s seventh win in eight games, coming off a 6-1 road trip.
Former Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick hit a three-run homer for Oakland, who dropped their third straight. Athletics starter Tommy Milone (3-2) allowed eight runs — seven earned — in 4-2/3 innings.
RAYS 3, MARINERS 2, 12 INNINGS
In St Petersburg, Florida, Elliot Johnson hit an RBI single with one out in the 12th inning, giving Tampa Bay a comeback victory over Seattle.
Playing before a crowd of just 9,458 — the smallest at Tropicana Field since September 2007 — the Rays twice rallied from one-run deficits before winning it against Brandon League (0-2), who failed to hold a 2-1 lead the Mariners took on Jesus Montero’s homer in the 11th.
J.P. Howell (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.
B.J. Upton’s RBI single in the 11th wiped out the short-lived lead the Mariners took on Montero’s homer off Wade Davis.
Seattle ace Felix Hernandez struck out nine in eight innings.
ANGELS 4, TWINS 3
In Anaheim, California, C.J. Wilson held Minnesota scoreless into the eighth inning, guiding Los Angeles to a tight win.
Torii Hunter homered and drove in three runs for Los Angeles, who returned from a rough road trip with a much-needed victory.
It was the first time in eight games that the Angels had managed to scored five runs.
The Twins opened a six-game West Coast road trip with their seventh loss in eight games. Minnesota have the majors’ worst record at 6-16.
AP, DENVER, COLORADO
Colorado’s Juan Nicasio pitched six solid innings to steer the Rockies to a 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday in the first of 18 meetings this season between the National League West rivals.
Continuing his remarkable comeback from a broken neck sustained in August last year when he was hit in the head by a line drive, Nicasio (2-0) gave up only two runs.
Troy Tulowitzki hit a two-run double for the Rockies, who went ahead with a three-run fourth inning off Los Angeles starter Aaron Harang (2-1), who went 5-2/3 innings, giving up five runs.
Matt Kemp hit his major league-leading 12th homer of the season for the Dodgers, who have the best record in the National League at 16-7.
PIRATES 9, BRAVES 3
In Atlanta, Georgia, Pedro Alvarez and Yamaico Navarro each hit two-run homers as Pittsburgh enjoyed a long-awaited offensive breakthrough and beat Atlanta.
The Pirates, last in the major leagues with 58 runs in 22 games, almost doubled their previous season high of five runs. Neil Walker had three hits and drove in a run.
It took the Pirates 22 games this season to score more than five runs. That was the longest streak since the 1972 Milwaukee Brewers went a major league-record 31 games into the season without surpassing five runs.
James McDonald (1-1) set a career high with 10 strikeouts as he improved to 3-0 in six career appearances against the Braves.
Navarro homered off Mike Minor (2-2) in the sixth.
ASTROS 4, METS 3
In Houston, Texas, Matt Downs hit a two-run homer as Houston edged New York.
The game was tied 3-3 starting the bottom of the eight when Jordan Schafer reached first base on an infield single. He stole second with one out and scored on a single by Jed Lowrie, which Mets reliever Manny Acosta (0-2) deflected into the outfield.
New York had tied the game by scoring three times in the seventh.
Astros reliever Fernando Rodriguez (1-3) got the last out of the eighth for the win and Brett Myers pitched a perfect ninth for the save.
PHILLIES 6, CUBS 4
In Philadelphia, Placido Polanco hit a tiebreaking, two-run double in the eighth inning to lift the Phillies over the Cubs.
Bryan LaHair hit a tying, two-run homer off Chad Qualls (1-0) in the eighth after Vance Worley threw seven impressive innings for Philadelphia, but the Phillies answered in the bottom half. Scott Maine (0-1) hit pinch-hitter Juan Pierre with a one-out pitch and Jimmy Rollins singled off Rafael Dolis with two outs.
Polanco drove in two with a hard liner to the wall in left.
Monday’s other results:
‧ Diamondbacks 9, Marlin 5
‧ Brewers 8, Padres 3