Sunday, April 20, 2008

Darvish Watch 08: Episode 2

After a rousing first start, Darvish looked to build on his success against the intriguing Seibu Lions. The Lions struggled in 2007 after losing Daisuke Matsuzaka to the Boston Red Sox and face an even more imposing task in 2008 after seeing slugger Alex Cabrera and stalwart outfielder Kazuhiro Wada walk as free agents in the offseason. Darvish would oppose Seibu's young ace Hideaki Wakui on this occasion and all eyes were watching as one of the most attractive rivalries in the Pacific League unfolded.

The easy first inning of the opening start against Lotte was encouraging for Darvish fans, but a long string of success is perhaps the only thing that will ease the nerves built up over the course of the entire 2007 campaign. After retiring the first batter, Darvish allowed a double to centerfielder Shogo Akada. Would he allow this to rattle him and start a string of trouble? Not this time. Darvish retired the next two batters and went back to the dugout with a quick regrouping.

Still, this wasn't the sharpest outing for the 21-year old righty, as he hit a batter and allowed a follow up line drive to left for a single and some trouble in the 2nd. Again, he battled out of trouble. Unlike the first start of the season, this game had Darvish working out of the stretch on a regular basis. Wakui was equally shaky, but dueled the Nippon Ham ace effectively through 9 innings. The score was tied at zero until pinch hitter Shinji Takahashi delivered a walk off single in the bottom of the 10th handing Wakui the loss and Fighter's reliever Hisashi Takeda a victory after entering in the top of the inning.

Darvish managed to work 9 innings, allowing 7 hits, 4 walks, and a hit batsman on 132 pitches. He struck out 7, but came away with a no decision thanks to the equally impressive Wakui who worked one inning too many as it turned out. Still, this outing proved to be encouraging for Darvish fans as he battled through a lack of sharpness to hold the Lions at zero and gave his team a chance to win.

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