Sunday, April 20, 2008

Darvish Watch 08: Episode 3

Unscored upon in 18 consecutive innings to open the year, Yu Darvish would face the SoftBank Hawks in his 3rd go around. Struggling with his control in the previous start, Darvish battled to keep his team in contention for the eventual win. The first inning watch continues as the ace of the Fighter's staff opposed Rick Guttormson, who threw a no-hitter in 2006 and was suspended for drug use in 2007 after testing positive for finasteride. Finasteride is a hair-growth product that is apparently used as a masking ageny, and Guttormson seems to have a nice, full head of hair. Hmmmmm.....

First batter, Hawks' shortstop Munenori Kawasaki found his way on base after being plunked by Darvish. Not an auspicious start, to say the least. The middle of the SoftBank lineup is very good and presents some problems with the speedy Kawasaki on the basepaths disturbing Darvish's concentration. Nothing would come of the leadoff runner, however, and Darvish never looked to be in any serious difficulty against the Hawks throughout most of the game. In fact, after the initial hit batsmen, Darvish only allowed a walk and a single through 6 innings. The single in the 6th frame was erased on a double play.

While Darvish cruised, Guttormson struggled. The Hawks starter allowed 4 earned runs over 6 innings and left the game on the short end of the score. Darvish seemed to let up a bit as he took the mound in the 7th with a comfortable lead, giving up a leadoff double, a bloop single to right, and an infield single to short, loading the bases with none out. Hawks third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda then laced a line drive double to left field, scoring two and putting Darvish against the ropes for the first time this season. A 24 inning consecutive scoreless streak was snapped and suddenly the game seemed in doubt.

Alas, the Hawks went 1-2-3 following the big hit by Matsuda and Darvish stepped away with a lead intact. Narrowly averting disaster, the young ace's night was through. The bullpen closed out a big win for the Fighters, and allowed Darvish to sit out a few innings for the first time all year.

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