Darvish outduels Drabek

Rangers starter Yu Darvish pitches against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont.,...

Rangers starter Yu Darvish pitches against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., April 30, 2012. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:48 PM ET

TORONTO - Monday night’s Blue Jays-Texas Rangers tilt was like a performance of the Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun, the one with the song, Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better).

That’s how it was with the Rangers’ rookie pitching phenom Yu Darvish and the Jays’ promising young starter Kyle Drabek. Everything Drabek did — and he did pretty well — Darvish did better.

Drabek went six innings and recorded a career-high eight strikeouts, giving up five hits, and leaving the game down 2-1.

Darvish, meanwhile, continued his remarkable rookie campaign by going seven innings, giving up four hits, one earned run, with two walks, striking out nine, as the red-hot Rangers beat the Jays, 4-1 at the Rogers Centre in front of a crowd of 21,945. In his previous start last Tuesday, Darvish held the New York Yankees scoreless over 8⅓ innings, striking out 10 with two walks. He is now 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA, the first starter in Rangers history to win four of his first five career games.

The Jays never officially admitted that they bid on Darvish last year, who came to the Major Leagues this season after starring in the Japanese Leagues. But you can bet that they would readily admit now that they’d love to have the Rangers’ right-hander on their roster. Darvish was certainly aware of the significance of playing for the first time in Toronto.

“It was very nice to pitch here,” he said through an interpreter. “But honestly it was kind of an awkward feeling because the rumour has it that this was a team that might have posted for me. There was some chance that I might have played for this team.”

Both young starters opened the game by getting three straight batters each, with two strikeouts apiece. The Rangers got to Drabek in the second, with DH Adrian Beltre — who had two doubles and a single — leading off with a double to right and was sent home via a Nelson Cruz double.

Darvish got into some trouble in the second by walking Adam Lind to lead off the inning. He then hit Edwin Encarnacion in the left elbow (the second straight game the Jays’ DH was it by a pitch in that area). But then Darvish got out Eric Thames with a fly ball to left and struck out Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus.

The Rangers went up by two in the third when Andrus doubled home Ian Kinsler, who led off the inning with a walk.

Encarnacion recorded the first hit for the Jays in the fourth, which happened to be a line-drive home run to left centre, making the score 2-1, his team-leading eighth homer of the season — and his fourth in as many games — becoming only the third Jay to do that after Carlos Delgado and Joe Carter.

Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland smashed a 3-2 pitch to the left field bleachers at the top of the seven, off reliever Evan Crawford, to put the Rangers up 3-1, and the next batter, centrefielder Craig Gentry launched a line-drive homer to left, making it 4-1, and Crawford’s night was over. Jays manager John Farrell defended his decision to take Drabek out after six, saying that he had already thrown 106 pitches. Farrell was certainly impressed with Darvish.

“We had a couple of opportunities against Darvish but it seemed like he’d get a strikeout when he needed to shut an inning off,” Farrell said. “He could throw his fastball to both sides of the plate. And he doesn’t settle in into any one pattern. He had a split he could attack left handers with (and) back-door breaking balls as well. He wasn’t afraid to throw any one pitch in any given count.”

Darvish ran into some trouble again in the seventh when he gave up a single to Encarnacion, who went 2-for-3 on the night, and one batter later walked Brett Lawrie. But then he struck out Rasmus and enticed catcher J.P. Arencibia into a pop fly to second.

Jays slugger Jose Bautista continued to struggle, going 0-for-4 at the plate and is now batting .179.

NO PRESSURE

Some managers and coaches are reluctant to talk about heralded rookies on their team for fear of putting too much pressure on them.

But Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said he can talk about Darvish forever.

“He has power and he can finesse you,” Washington said. “He can sink it, he can run it, he can hop it, he can slow it down, he can make it quick, he can cut, split it, he can do everything with the baseball. It’s just the matter of using that stuff at the proper time.”

Washington was asked if he feels the pain of Jays fans, given that his Rangers outbid (unofficially) the Jays for Darvish’s services.

“No, I don’t feel no pain for Toronto,” he said. “They give me enough pain.”

HAMILTON SITS

The Rangers were without star outfielder Josh Hamilton. Hamilton, who is second in the AL with a .395 average and first in home runs with nine, left Sunday night’s game against Tampa Bay with back stiffness and is listed as day-to-day. Washington isn’t sure if he’ll be back for games against the Jays on Tuesday and Wednesday.


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