Darvish wins 1st start since 2014 as Rangers top Pirates 5-2
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Yu Darvish hit 98 mph in the first inning of his first start in the majors in almost 22 months.
Texas catcher Bobby Wilson is just glad he wasn't running to the backstop after that pitch, and a few others early in the Rangers' 5-2 interleague victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the Japanese right-hander's return from last year's Tommy John surgery Saturday night.
"In warmups, he didn't really let it go. And then warmups in the first inning, he didn't really let it go," Wilson said. "Then the first couple of hitters, he started letting it go and that ball jumped on me quick. The sinkers that he threw, there was a couple I'm just happy I got a glove on because they were that firm and that nasty."
Adrian Beltre had a two-run homer in the first inning off Juan Nicasio (3-3) to become the fourth third baseman with at least 1,500 RBIs, finishing with 1,501.
Mitch Moreland snapped a 1-for-27 skid with a solo home run in the fourth as Texas ended the Pirates' five-game winning streak.
The "Yuuu" calls from a sellout crowd started early for Darvish, who allowed three hits and a run with seven strikeouts in five strong innings. He came out after 81 pitches, just shy of the target Texas had for him after five rehab outings this month.
Four Texas relievers allowed four hits and a run with four strikeouts in four innings.
"Physically I felt I could go more innings, but mentally I was like 'I'm done here,'" Darvish said through an interpreter. "Today I was heating it up pretty good so I felt pretty good."
Darvish last pitched in the big leagues on Aug. 9, 2014. He missed the rest of that season with right elbow inflammation, and ended up needing ligament reconstruction surgery after his only spring training appearance last year.
John Jaso had a leadoff single on Darvish's second pitch before Andrew McCutchen struck out. The Pirates didn't get another hit until Francisco Cervelli's sinking liner in front of rookie right fielder Nomar Mazara in the fifth.
No. 9 hitter Cole Figueroa ended Darvish's shutout bid by pulling a hanging slider into right-center field for a single that scored Cervelli.
Darvish, who is 7-1 with a 1.77 ERA in 10 starts against NL teams, finished his outing with his second swinging strikeout of Jaso. The first was on an 82 mph slider and the second on an 89 mph cutter. As usual, Darvish sprinkled in other breaking pitches as well, some as slow as 70 mph.
"He's looking fresh," Jaso said. "He was doing his normal thing, like where he throws fastball usually the first time through the lineup and then he starts dropping this in, this in and all that stuff. It looks like he's his normal, dominant self."
The only other time Texas manager Jeff Banister saw Darvish in the majors, he was Pittsburgh's bench coach when Gerrit Cole and the Pirates beat the Rangers 1-0 in September 2013.
"It's still as electric, explosive as I remember it," Banister said. "The stuff, when you look at the hitters, and you watch the expressions and their reactions, you can tell the stuff was electric. Just as impressive tonight as it was back then."
Prince Fielder, now hitting .196, had a run-scoring groundout before Beltre's homer and a hustling double in the fifth when he belly-flopped on top of the bag and rested for a moment. Moreland, batting .221, ended a season-high homer drought at 15 games. "When they're right, they can carry the whole team," Beltre said. "It looks like they're swinging the bat better."
Joey Gallo, who had just one at-bat in his five-day stint, was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to make room on the roster for Darvish. ... Jared Hoying had his first career hit on a fourth-inning single. ... Jurickson Profar, in the second game of Rougned Odor's seven-game suspension as Odor's replacement in the leadoff spot and at second base, had his first career triple in the seventh.
Pirates: LHP Francisco Liriano (4-3, 4.30) has won his last four starts against the Rangers and is 5-1 with a save and a 2.89 ERA in nine career games against them, most of those with Minnesota. His last appearance against Texas was Sept. 10, 2013.
Rangers: LHP Martin Perez (2-4, 3.13) makes his team-high 11th start and has gone 2-2 with a 2.23 ERA in his past six starts. He threw six shutout innings in a 4-1 win over the Angels in his last start.