Monday, April 30, 2007

Darvish Watch: Episode 6

After the last outing, Darvish had to be motivated for a better start against Lotte. A lack of control early ended up costing the young ace the game, as he pitched every bit the ace that he is the remaining 8 innings. Darvish has managed to go all 9 innings in his 4 starts after the rain-shortened opening game, and has shown the ability to keep his focus throughout most of the contests so far, something he struggled with in his first year and a half as a professional.

Lotte came into the April 26th affair in first place in the Pacific with the champion Fighters dragging far behind in last. Nothing has gone right for Nippon Ham so far this season, and it appears as though the offense can't make due without the 2006 MVP Ogasawara and iconic, if mediocre, Shinjo. The pitching should be better than it has performed, and you can really pin the struggles on the loss of Hideki Okajima, although his 2007 season in Boston shows how much the Fighters may eventually miss him. How would Darvish fair?

In contrast to the shaky 1st inning of a game earlier, Yu got the Marines to go 1-2-3 with a looking K sandwiched by two groundouts to the left side. A leadoff triple by Shinjo replacement Hichyori Morimoto was eventually plated by the lone offensive bright spot for Nippon Ham in 2007, Atsunori Inaba. 1-0 Nippon Ham early.

Darvish was brilliant. He finished the game going 1-2-3 in seven of the nine innings, earning a complete game shutout. The only baserunners for Bobby V's Lotte club were a walk by #2 man Daisuke Hayakawa, a walk and a single by Benny Agbayani, and a single for .200 hitting DH, Tasuku Hashimoto. 4 baserunners over 9 complete in a 1-0 shutout against the best team in the league. It's not hard to understand why people are so high on this young player. I like to remind people as often as possible that Yu Darvish doesn't turn 21 until August 16th. Manager Trey Hillman's quotes about Darvish being better than Daisuke Matsuzaka at the same age are not only looking better and better all the time, but the physical tools that the Fighters' ace possesses are much better as well. The stamina and power that Darvish should develop over time may help to project him as the better player. That's frightening considering my high opinion of the Red Sox newest starter. More to come as our hero looks to extend the string of complete games, and master the control of his improving arsenal. Click below to enlarge his updated game log and stat line.

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