Thursday, May 31, 2007

Darvish Watch: Episode 7

Following a stellar outing against Lotte on April 26th, young Yu Darvish was looking to put together his 6th consecutive complete game as he took on the lowly Orix Buffaloes. Since falling victim to a rain shortened season opener, Darvish has pitched every inning of each of his starts and has looked completely dominant in all but a few of those frames. Orix' offense didn't figure to stand much of a chance against the tall ace of the Fighters.

Most of Darvish's struggles in 2007 have come in the first inning when he's battled his command. On several occasions, he has missed the plate by a few centimeters here and there and has gotten himself in trouble by nibbling a bit too much. Nibbling is not his profile, as Darvish almost always shows confidence beyond what the normal 20-year old should rightly possess. The first batter to step to the plate in this contest, Hiroaki Ohnishi, was a victim of Darvish's lack of first inning command when he was grazed across the letters by a fastball offering that didn't stay in the zone enough. Knowing that Darvish is likely to be best hit in the 1st inning, a smart manager would take a few pitches and let his #2 and 3 men attempt to capitalize on the good fortune of an early base runner. Anyway, a manager who understands run expectancy would certainly do so. In Japan, when facing an opposing ace, the protocol is to sacrifice the runner to second without fail. That is precisely what Mitsunaka Goto, he of the Mendoza line average, did on this particular occasion. I would question the logic of hitting a guy with a 500-ish OPS in the #2 slot, if I didn't know that the Japanese play for the sac bunt.

No runs came of the leadoff baserunner, and Orix would never threaten again. Darvish locked in and allowed 3 hits for the remainder of the game. In the 9th inning, looking for the complete game shutout, Darvish faced outstanding foreign import Greg LaRocca who took him yard for a solo shot that broke up the bid for a cool zero in the runs column. With the lead trimmed to 3-1, Darvish fanned 2 of the remaining 3 batters to take his strikeout tally to 7 and quiet the would be rally before it started. Another complete game and another win for the suddenly awakened Nippon Ham Fighters. Click below for a look at Darvish's updated stat line:

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