Yu throws eventful four innings in third start
Rangers righty fans four, walks three, allows one hit on 70 pitches
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- For all the hype surrounding Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish and his role in Monday's game between Texas and Milwaukee at wind-blown Surprise Stadium, there was one thing to remember: The Brewers have a new Japanese player themselves, and he's pretty good, too.
As chance would have it, that player, right fielder Norichika Aoki, keyed the Brewers to a 5-3 win. After Milwaukee treaded water through Darvish's effectively wild four innings, with Aoki getting the only hit off his countryman, Aoki's two-run triple in the sixth keyed a three-run rally to put the Brewers up for good.
Darvish, who was working on perfecting the windup he's been working on all spring, had stretches where he showed pinpoint command and the baffling arsenal of pitches that have made him a Japanese legend at the age of 25. He also showed the lack of command and occasional wildness that are to be expected in a new country, with a different baseball, and in the yearly tune-up period known as Spring Training.
In short, Darvish's third Cactus League outing, and his first at the Rangers' spring home, was a little bit of everything packed into four innings and 70 pitches. In odd innings, he was dominant, and in even innings, he was all over the place.
The end result showed what he's capable of: Aoki's RBI bouncer through the right side in the second was the only hit Darvish allowed in an outing in which he struck out four, walked three, threw a wild pitch, hit a batter and gave up a run. Thirty-nine of his 70 tosses were strikes. Darvish lowered his spring ERA to 3.00. He has 10 punchouts and seven walks in nine spring innings.
"The way my body is working, my delivery, I can't really repeat it all the time right now," Darvish said through an interpreter. "The consistency is not there. That's why you see some good pitches and some bad ones. And I don't expect it to be perfect right now anyway. Those are some things I'm going to continue to plan on polishing as we go on."
Things started well for Darvish on Monday. Despite working in windy, chilly conditions, the right-hander froze Rickie Weeks with an 84 mph slider to get things going, then retired Nyjer Morgan on a 3-1 groundout, looking athletic as he covered first base. He got Ryan Braun to pop up to end that inning.
Darvish got into some trouble in the second, issuing a leadoff walk to Travis Ishikawa. He got two outs, including a strikeout of George Kottaras, but he then hit Jonathan Lucroy with a pitch before giving up Aoki's hit. He struck out Cesar Izturis looking to end that frame, but he threw 26 pitches in the inning.
Darvish breezed through a 1-2-3 third, striking out Weeks, and then had more control issues in the fourth. He walked Ishikawa again and let him take second on a wild pitch to Alex Gonzalez. He walked Kottaras to put runners on first and second before ending his day with a double-play ball off the bat of Lucroy.
As for Aoki, who went 3-for-3 with three RBIs, a stolen base and a run scored, it was a pleasing turn of events for a player who entered the game with a .194 batting average and only two RBIs in 36 at-bats this spring.
Aoki said he felt no extra adrenaline facing Darvish, but, "It brought me back to my days playing in Japan. I feel like I'm getting better and better every day. Today, I felt really good."
With the Rangers having taken a 3-1 lead on Brewers starter Randy Wolf (five innings, 10 hits, three earned runs), the Brewers mounted a rally off Rangers closer Joe Nathan in the sixth. Alex Gonzalez led off with a single, Kottaras followed with a base hit of his own, and two batters later, Aoki tripled to right field before scoring the go-ahead run on a squeeze bunt by Izturis.
Kentrail Davis homered off Rangers reliever Yoshinori Tateyama in the eighth.
Up next for Brewers: The team will be back on the road Tuesday in Glendale, Ariz., to play the Dodgers, with Milwaukee lefty Chris Narveson scheduled to start against Chad Billingsley at 3:05 p.m. CT. The game can be seen on MLB.TV and heard on an exclusive free webcast, and Brewers fans should see third baseman Aramis Ramirez back in the lineup after getting Monday off. Ramirez, still seeking his first Brewers RBI, has asked manager Ron Roenicke for more playing time over the final two weeks of Spring Training.
Up next for Rangers: Texas travels on Tuesday, playing a Cubs split squad in Mesa, Ariz., in a 3:05 p.m. CT start before a Wednesday off-day. Right-hander Neftali Feliz will take the ball for the Rangers against Cubs righty Ryan Dempster. Watch for Michael Young, who has hit in eight consecutive Spring Training games, to look to extend his Cactus League streak.