Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers will pitch in the highest-profile game of his young Major League Baseball career tonight, facing the New York Yankees and fellow Japanese starter Hiroki Kuroda.
The matchup, which will be broadcast live in Japan by NHK television, marks the seventh time that two Japanese-born pitchers have started in the same major-league game.
Darvish has a 2-0 record through his first three appearances for the Rangers, who have won the past two American League championships and lead the AL West with a 13-4 record. Kuroda is 1-1 in his first season with the 27-time World Series champion Yankees, who are tied for the American League East lead at 10-6.
“I don’t think I have to control Yu’s emotions,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said, according to the team’s website. “I think he’s past that.”
Darvish 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.
Darvish pitched to countryman Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners in his major-league debut on April 9, picking up the win after allowing five runs over 5 2/3 innings and three hits to the Mariners’ outfielder. Darvish has allowed one earned run in each of his past two starts, getting no decision in an April 14 win in Minnesota and holding the Tigers to two hits over 6 1/3 innings in a 10-3 win in Detroit on April 19.
Kuroda, 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 Dodgers.
“I’m aware that our team is going to be facing one of the greatest pitchers that Japan has produced, but my concern is to contribute as much as possible for our team to win,” Kuroda said through an interpreter, according to MLB.com.
The 37-year-old right-hander has twice allowed six runs in his starts with the Yankees and pitched eight shutout innings in the other. In the Yankees’ losses at Tampa Bay on April 7 and against Minnesota on April 18, six of the 12 runs Kuroda surrendered were scored in the first inning.
Kuroda will be facing a Rangers’ lineup that leads the major leagues with a .298 team batting average and 98 runs.
The Yankees, who have played one fewer game, rank second with a .284 average and 97 runs scored while leading the majors with 28 homers. The Yankees beat Texas 7-4 in the opener of the three-game series yesterday.
“This is not a one-on-one game,” Kuroda said. “It’s the Rangers against the Yankees.”
The last major-league matchup of Japanese starting pitchers was on July 22, 2010, when Kuroda and the Los Angeles 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 New York Yankees faced Suzuki in 1999, while Hideo Nomo of the Detroit Tigers also went up against Suzuki the following year.