ARLINGTON, Texas – Ichiro Suzuki was impressed by Yu Darvish, even after the Japanese ace struggled early in his debut for the Texas Rangers.
Suzuki and the Seattle Mariners jumped out to a quick four-run lead before Darvish settled down and got some help from his powerful offense as the Rangers went on to an 11-5 victory Monday night.
“My impression was good, not his pitching but just in general. After he was taken out of the game, you saw the crowd did a standing ovation and he didn’t tip his cap,” Suzuki said. “He wasn’t very happy or satisfied with his pitching, and that shows pride. That’s a good mentality, that’s what I liked about him.”
After giving up four runs while throwing 42 pitches in the first inning, then allowing another run in the second, Darvish (1-0) later retired 10 in a row while pitching into the sixth.
Darvish walked leadoff hitter Chone Figgins on four pitches to start the game before striking out Dustin Ackley.
Suzuki then blooped a single just over third base, and Justin Smoak lined a single to right before Kyle Seager’s two-run single. Another walk and an RBI single by Miguel Olivo reloaded the bases before Munenori Kawasaki, an eight-time All-Star in Japan who was the only Mariner to previously face Darvish, walked on four pitches and put Seattle up 4-0.
There was also a wild pitch thrown so hard that it ricocheted off the brick backstop right back to catcher Mike Napoli.
And the M’s still couldn’t beat him after jumping out to 4-0 and 5-2 leads.
It wasn’t the first time Seattle manager Eric Wedge watched a pitcher give up four first-inning runs and still get a win after avoiding being knocked out of the game early.
“I’m not crazy about it when it’s against us. We were about to that point,” Wedge said. “They’re going to be careful with him and they had somebody up. We were close. …”
Darvish insisted he had a feeling of calmness when he took the mound for his much-anticipated major league debut. He just had to settle down his big right arm to match how his mind felt.
“Mentally, I was very calm, but my body felt like it wanted to go and go and go,” Darvish said through a translator. “At the beginning of the game, my mind and my body kind of weren’t on the same page. … It was pretty much a battle all night. Just knowing my offense, if I could string those zeroes together, they would answer for me.”
Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer in the third for Texas to tie the game at 5, then Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton went deep in the fourth to give Darvish an 8-5 lead. Ian Kinsler added a three-run blast in the eighth.
Darvish was Japan’s top pitcher before the Rangers committed more than $107 million to acquire him, including his guaranteed $56 million, six-year contract. “Going through warmups and everything, he felt fine,” said Napoli, sporting a “Yu is my Homeboy” T-shirt. “He got out there and was over-amped. I don’t think he was scared, he was excited to be out there.”
When manager Ron Washington replaced Darvish with Alexi Ogando – who struck out Smoak to end that inning – Darvish got a loud ovation from the crowd that was also chanting “Yuuuuuuu!” as he walked to the dugout without acknowledging the cheers.
Darvish, 25, who struck out five and walked four while throwing 59 of 110 pitches for strikes, called it moving to get that kind of reaction after his tough performance. He said he wasn’t aware it was customary to tip his cap to the crowd.
“I guess we’ll tell him,” Napoli said with a smile.
Seattle starter Hector Noesi (0-1) only made it into the fourth.