April 29, 2012
Bautista vs. Darvish: Classic!
By Bob Elliott, QMI Agency
Yu Darvish and his entourage make their Rogers Centre debut Monday night.
No doubt, Texas Rangers’ equipment manager Richard (Hoggy) Price brought extra luggage.
“What does Darvish have? Nine pitches?” asked Blue Jays left fielder Eric Thames. “Didn’t Daisuke Matsuzaka have nine when he came over from Japan and the Boston Red Sox cut him back to four or five?”
The advantage always goes to the pitcher in first-time meetings, whether it’s Team Canada’s Adam Loewen, who had not pitched above class-A, facing Team USA majors leaguers/future Hall of Famers in the 2006 World Baseball Classic or Philadelphia Phillies’ Mark Davis and his 17.65 ERA facing the Montreal Expos in 1981.
“We haven’t seen him and we don’t know a lot about him,” said Jose Bautista, “but then ... he hasn’t seen me, either.”
Bautista had a 1-for-4 day Sunday as the Jays beat the Seattle Mariners 7-2 at the Rogers Centre, raising his average to .190.
Quite un-Bautista like.
Against the Mariners, he saw 21 pitches, 11 strikes, and swung seven times.
A year ago Sunday, he saw 19 pitches (plus an intentional walk), eight strikes and swung three times while hitting a two-run homer off Freddy Garcia and a single for a 2-for-3 day in a 5-3 win over the New York Yankees.
What does it all mean?
“I’m swinging at too many bad pitches,” Bautista said.
“I don’t know what it means,” said hitting coach Dwayne Murphy. “I do know he had some good at-bats, had some good swings ... he’s just missing. I mean just missing.”
Bautista played an important role in the Jays winning Sunday and, if not for a Brett Lawrie error Friday, the Jays would have swept the series.
Reliever Steve Delabar allowed a leadoff single to Bautista and then plunked Edwin Encarnacion, who had hit a grand slam Saturday. Plate ump Vic Carapazza issued warnings and Seattle manager brought in lefty Charlie Furbush.
During the delay, Bautista used the time to talk to third base coach Brian Butterfield and head into the dugout for a drink of water. He was off to the races at Woodbine on the first pitch, with Encarnacion swiping second for a successful double steal.
“I didn’t tell (Butterfield) I was stealing. I knew he (Furbush) was slow to the plate,” Bautista said.
Wedge then chose to walk pinch-hitter Rajai Davis, loading the bases. Lawrie, who has been taking plenty of pitches of late, was first-pitch aggressive, lining a double to left. Davis scored when a pickoff attempt hit him in the wrist and kicked into foul ground. Jeff Mathis followed with a two-run homer.
“The play of the inning was the double steal,” said Jason Frasor. “That set everything up.”
Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar always said stealing third off a lefty was easier than stealing second. And Bautista’s second steal of the season was the key to the inning.
“Our guys know pitchers’ tendencies,” said Butterfield. “It wasn’t a steal, but he can look at me or look into the dugout for the sign.”
And now the Jays look to Yu-hoo’s arrival, the right-hander, not the drink.
Gaku Tashiro of Sankei Sports, the Peter Gammons of Japan, has been covering major-league baseball since Ichiro Suzuki arrived in Seattle in 2001. He’s been there for the media crush when Hideki Matsui, Matsuzaka and now Darvish arrived. He is one of 30 writers from Japan the Rangers expect to cover Darvish’s start Monday ... from his first warm-up pitch in the bullpen to the final pitch of the game.
“Matsui was the biggest story for Japanese fans because he was with the New York Yankees,” said Tashiro. “Darvish is the story of the year this season, many players from Japan are struggling.
“Fans in Japan were worried at his start, but after his previous two starts they are satisfied.”
Darvish worked 61/3 innings in a win over the Detroit Tigers, then worked 81/3 scoreless in a 2-0 shutout of the Yanks in his most recent two outings.
“Darvish only talks to the media at press conferences, like Ichiro,” Tashiro said from Arlington, Tex. “Matsui-san always talked to the Japanese media after every game.
“Derek Holland is very nice to us, he’s close to Darvish. Mike Napoli is very patient with the Japanese writers and Colby Lewis pitched in Japan. We don’t have Darvish to talk to, but we have many Rangers players to talk with.”
Darvish and his wide array of pitches faces Kyle Drabek in the series opener.
The Jays will know something is afoot and Darvish is going deep into his repertoire if a Rangers catcher takes off his right shoe to use two toes plus his fingers to give a signal.