Saturday, June 09, 2007

Darvish Watch: Episode 10

While the elements conspired to prevent Yu Darvish from punishing the Yokohama Bay Stars, the struggling Hanshin Tigers were not so lucky. After consecutive days of rained out baseball against the Yokohama boys, including one aborted game after one inning, Trey Hillman gave Darvish the day off. After a night's sleep, Darvish took the hill dry and fired up to face the Hanshin club.

A bad offensive club is just what the doctor ordered for a pitcher who has struggled to get off to good starts in recent days. A 1-2-3 first was easy to predict against these toothless Tigers, but what we imagine and what happens are often very different things. Not on this day. 1-2-3 went the Tigers against Darvish, and in fact the first 7 Hanshin batters went back to the bench with their bats in their hands on this evening in June. After walking the second batter of the 3rd inning, young Yu Darvish close the door on any further danger. The top of the 4th inning saw one time Waseda University shortstop, and the would be saviour of the Hanshin franchise, go deep against Darvish in one of the few bright moments of his 4 year pro career. That player is Takashi Toritani, who once was considered a possibility to be drafted and traded to a Major League team (perhaps the Yankees), but went to Hanshin instead. Nothing he has done in his time with the Tigers has lived up to the huge billing he received as an amateur, but he now has a home run against the best pitcher on this side of the Pacific. Congratulations.

Following the home run to Toritani, Darvish allowed 2 baserunners over the remaining 5 innings he pitched, both erased on double plays. With an 8-1 lead, Trey Hillman relieved Darvish after the 8th inning, in a move that still puzzles me to this day. Darvish is Mr. Complete Game, and was cruising. The Nippon Ham relief core came in and needed 3 pitchers to get 3 outs, giving up 4 runs in the process. It wasn't the pen's finest hour, but Darvish got the win and Nippon Ham continues to climb the standings on their way toward first place. Remarkable after their horrendous start. Here are Darvish's updated stats on the season (click to enlarge):

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