The game had played the part of a supermodel, showing up 102 minutes after the scheduled start time because it couldn't possibly, not in this weather, but dazzling once it had arrived. Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka, facing each other for the first time in the U.S. had matched innings all night: Tanaka working up and down the strike zone with the cutter and slider, and Darvish placing his fastball on the corners with dart-thrower’s precision, and unleashing a slider that defied nature, changing directions like a playful sailfish.
Inning by inning, pitch by pitch, the two star Japanese right-handers had dueled like swordfighters. Thrust, parry, deceive, mislead, strike, strike, strikes, so many strikes, both called and swung upon.
By the time they were done, their lines looked like this:
TANAKA: 8 IP, 3H, 0R, 9K, 2BB, 100 pitches, 69 strikes
DARVISH: 7IP, 2H, 0R, 10K, 0BB, 88 pitches, 60 strikes
If you think that line on Darvish looks a little light in the innings pitched / pitches thrown columns, you’re not wrong. Manager Jeff Banister said after the game that Darvish had experienced some tightness in his tricep, and was removed as a precautionary measure.
“At this time in the season,” Darvish told media later, through a translator “I don’t want to push it and affect my next outing. I think I’m going to be fine for the next outing,”
In a game that had more than a couple of punches straight to your gut, that’s the one that has the potential to hurt the longest. We’ll all hold our breath and see.
It stings a little more because Darvish was dominant tonight. After Brett Gardner’s leadoff single, Darvish retired thirteen in a row before allowing another baserunner, this time a Gary Sanchez single. Sanchez was then erased on a double play, and Darvish proceeded to retire the following six, finishing his night with a 72mph curveball to strike out Matt Holliday.
It may be impossible to overstate how dominant Darvish was tonight (but I will try!) I mean, look at this slider.
I mean, come on. He is playing whiffle ball tonight. pic.twitter.com/EANCfHwMf4— Levi Weaver (@ThreeTwoEephus) June 24, 2017
That slider thought for a second that it left the oven on at home, before chuckling and remembering “ah that’s right, I remember turning it off. I’m good!”
That slider was used to driving with a clutch and accidentally stomped on the brake pedal with its left foot.
That–no, just one more, I promise–that slider thought about the good times just before it got to the door and remembered it had been cheated on.
That–SORRY I thought of one more, and the game ended in an excruciating fashion, so let’s just enjoy this before it gets depressing–that slider pulled up to a stop sign, and thought it saw a person in the road ahead, but then it turned on its brights and there was nothing there. Had it seen a ghost? No. It didn’t believe in ghosts. But lately, it had sensed a feeling like someone was in the room. Suddenly, a chill ran up the slider’s spine, and the stitches raised on its neck. Giving a shudder, it slammed on the gas pedal, cranked the wheel to the left, peeling out and and speeding home faster and more recklessly than usual.
Well, now we’re into ghost stories, which transitions nicely into the rest of this game story, actually.
I haven’t told you how the legend of how Rangers scored their run tonight. Gather round... It was 0-0 in the 8th inning. Tanaka had given way to Aroldis Chapman. Elvis Andrus singled down the right field line, and advanced to second base when Nomar Mazara was hit by a pitch (a slider, thank goodness). With one out and Adrian Beltre already at the plate with a runner in scoring position, Andrus took a risk: he took off for third base.
And it paid off. He was safe. And when Beltre struck out on a ball in the dirt that skittered past Gary Sanchez, Andrus scored the first run of the game. Finally! A run! 1-0 Rangers. But...
[leans in, places flashlight under chin to create spooky effect]
Neftali Feliz, Shawn Tolleson, Sam Dyson. WoooOOOOOOooooOOOOOoooo
Matt Bush blew another save tonight, and while his fastball still looks electric at 99 and his slider still looks nasty at 92-94, he’s not locating it quite like he did last season, and batters have begun to hit his pitches. He has given up runs in five out of his last eight outings. He has now blown four saves, two in a row, three out of his last five, and you can tack on a loss in what had been a tie game, and 3 runs allowed in a game that was previously a blowout.
Tonight it happened like this: a Brett Gardner home run in the 9th to tie it and three hits in the 10th, wrapped up by a Ronald Torreyes single to center field to score Sanchez.