6/18/2014 3:46 A.M. ET
A is for arch-nemesis: Yu baffled by Oakland
Rangers' masterful right-hander falls to 1-8 in 10 career starts vs. A's
By Tracy Ringolsby / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- OK, so there's no logical explanation.
Texas right-hander Yu Darvish is one of the game's most dominant pitchers -- usually.
Not against the Oakland A's, though.
"I hit Randy Johnson good," A's manager Bob Melvin said of his .452 career batting average against the Hall of Fame pitcher in waiting. "But for a team to face that quality of a pitcher and have success against him, I'd have to think for a while."
There aren't many.
How good are the A's when they see Darvish? Well, in the two-plus years since he left his native Japan and went to work for the Texas Rangers, Darvish is 36-21 with a 3.10 ERA in 74 starts.
That's 35-13 with a 2.88 ERA against any team that doesn't wear green and gold and have an elephant as its mascot. With another struggle in the Rangers' 10-6 loss to the A's on Tuesday night at O.co Coliseum, Darvish is now 1-8 with a 4.94 ERA in 10 career starts against Oakland.
That makes Darvish one of five pitchers tied for the fifth-worst winning percentage of any pitcher in history to have started at least 10 games against the A's since their inception in Philadelphia back in 1901.
F vs. A's
|Chan Ho Park||1998-2005||1-8||.111||7.00||124-98|
Is there any rational explanation?
"Check out Greg Maddux and the Arizona Diamondbacks," said Maddux's brother, Mike, who happens to be the pitching coach for Darvish and the Rangers.
Sure enough. Greg Maddux not only was 3-11 in his career against Arizona, but he lost 10 of his first 11 decisions.
Some days it's just tough luck.
Darvish has lost 1-0 to the A's twice. Some days are better off forgotten, like his April 28 start when he failed to even make it out of the fourth inning.
And then some days are just bad days at the park, like Tuesday, when Darvish departed with two men on and no outs in the sixth inning and eventually was charged with seven runs (four earned) allowing eight hits and also walking five.
"This was one of those games where he beat himself," said Maddux.
There were those walks. There were mental lapses, like when Eric Sogard drew a one-out walk in the fourth, and stole second and third, not even drawing a throw at third base, before scoring on a Coco Crisp sacrifice fly.
That's eight losing decisions over Darvish's last nine starts against the A's, against whom he earned a 4-1 victory with 7 2/3 innings in his first appearance against them on May 11, 2012. The only other teams he has a losing record against are Minnesota (0-1), Pittsburgh (0-1) and Cleveland (1-2).
At the other extreme, Darvish is 5-0 lifetime against Detroit, and 7-1 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
"It's a mental battle," said Maddux. "Some places you feel good and want to pitch, and some places you don't."
Rest assured anywhere Oakland is in uniform is where Darvish would rather avoid, particularly O.co Coliseum, where he has a career 7.59 ERA.
"We're fortunate," said Melvin. "His stuff is so good, and on top of that, he has seven different pitches. We try to eliminate a couple of them and make him throw strikes. It's not easy. We've been fortunate."
The A's are a lot more fortunate than the rest of the big leagues. Consider that since his back-to-back starts against Oakland to end the month of April (he went 0-1 with seven earned runs in 9 1/3 innings), Darvish was 6-1 with a 1.83 ERA before facing the A's on Tuesday.
That's when Alberto Callaspo continued to enjoy the challenge of Darvish, going 2-for-2, singling home Oakland's first run, and raising his career average against Darvish to .360. Crisp is hitting .333; John Jaso .409; and after his 3-for-3 effort with two RBIs, Stephen Vogt is now 4-for-8 against Darvish.
"I can only imagine, it has to be frustrating," said Derek Norris. "He deals against everyone else. A good pitcher can have that one team that gets into their head."
For Darvish, that team is the A's.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.