Sunday, April 20, 2008

Darvish Watch 08: Episode 4

So far so good for young Yu Darvish. Three starts and three wins for the Fighters have come as a result of dominating pitching by the 21-year old ace, only sullied by a difficult 7th inning in his previous start against the SoftBank Hawks. In consecutive games we've seen a little trouble for Darvish, much as we did in 2007, but to date none of the baserunners allowed has touched home plate. In our continuing scrutiny of the Darvish First, we look at the latest confrontation between Darvish and his Rakuten Golden Eagles' hitters.

Naoto Watanabe (SS) Flyout to Left
Yosuke Takasu (2B) Groundout to Second
Daisuke Kusano (3B) Groundout to First

Whaddaya know? A clean first inning. Things looked good for a dominating performance, as Darvish rarely gets started cleanly and falters late. The biggest challenge in this contest would be to avoid blinking first against the once might Hisashi Iwakuma. The Rakuten starter was once one of Japan's best starting pitchers, before regular arm problems robbed him of his health and heat. This will be a make or break season for Iwakuma, as he is still young, but needs to stay on the field all year to be worthy of consideration as a top flight pitcher.

Both pitchers cruised through the bulk of this contest with Darvish allowing only three baserunners through 7. Iwakuma allowed a single walk through 6, but lost command in the 7th, giving up a crucial sac fly to Julio Zuleta and handing Darvish a lead. You just know that our hero made that run hold up, and finished off yet another complete game shutout. Working the complete game, Darvish gave up 3 hits and lone walk on 95 pitches, striking out 6 in the process. A truly dominating performance in which the Fighters' ace threw less than 10 pitches per inning. Iwakuma may have lost the battle on this night, but can still win the war by pitching this well on a regular basis.

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