Darvish improved to 3-0 as he struck out 10 batters and allowed seven hits in 8 1/3 innings in front of a sellout crowd last night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda (1-3) took the loss, giving up two runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Darvish outdueled Kuroda in the seventh major league game between starting pitchers born in Japan. The Rangers improved to 14-4, the best record in the American League. The Yankees are 10-7.
“He has a lot of talent, and when you have a guy like that on the mound you just gotta find a way to score runs,” Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus said in a televised interview. “He kept us in the game.”
The Yankees beat Texas 7-4 in the opener of the three-game series, which is scheduled to conclude tonight.
Darvish, who threw 119 pitches, in January signed a six- year contract with the Rangers that MLB.com said is worth about $60 million. The deal came after the Rangers paid a record $51.7 million to his Japanese team, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, for the right to negotiate with the 25-year-old Darvish, who went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA in 28 games in Japan last season.
Kuroda, a 37-year-old right-hander who never pitched in a game opposite Darvish in Japan, signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Yankees in January after spending four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ian Kinsler hit Kuroda’s third pitch 429 feet to center field for his fifth home run of the season. It was the 21st time Kinsler has led off a game with a home run, extending his franchise record.
Darvish found himself in a jam in the third when he failed to field a bunt by Derek Jeter after giving up a single to Eric Chavez and walking Russell Martin. Darvish then struck out Curtis Granderson and the Rangers escaped on a double-play groundout by Alex Rodriguez.
In the bottom of the third, Andrus walked with two outs and stole second before scoring on a Josh Hamilton single.
Rangers manager Ron Washington was booed as he walked to the mound in the ninth inning to relieve Darvish, who surrendered a single to Nick Swisher with his final pitch. The game ended with a double-play grounder by Raul Ibanez on the next pitch to give Joe Nathan his fifth save of the season.
The last major league matchup of Japanese starting pitchers was on July 22, 2010, when Kuroda and the Dodgers beat Hisanori Takahashi and the New York Mets 2-0.
Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox has been a part of two major league games involving Japanese starting pitchers, facing Kenshin Kawakami of the Atlanta Braves in 2009 and Tomo Ohka of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2007. Ohka also started against Mac Suzuki of the Kansas City Royals in 2002.
In the first major league game featuring two Japanese starting pitchers, Hideki Irabu of the Yankees faced Suzuki in 1999. Hideo Nomo of the Detroit Tigers went up against Suzuki the following year.
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