It was the sort of loss that can get into your bones and make a little nest if you let it. For the first five innings, Yu Darvish and Andrew Triggs traded zeroes, each using their fastballs and sliders to make fools of the opposition. Through five innings, Darvish had thrown a scant 56 pitches, struck out four and walked no one, allowing just one single. Remarkably, Triggs’ line was identical, save for one additional single. As far as duels go, this was encroaching on Randolph / Clay territory.
Then in the sixth inning, everything crumbled, first for Triggs, and later–and more spectacularly–for Darvish.
The Rangers’ half of the Great Undoing began when Jurickson Profar reached first base on an error by the usually sure-handed Yonder Alonso at first base. The next batter was Carlos Gomez, who eventually struck out, but not before Profar had stolen second base. Elvis Andrus stepped to the plate and swung at the first pitch he saw, slicing a screaming line drive into center field. Profar broke well, and the ball was bobbled in center field. It was 1-0.
Then Elvis went full #ElvisBall. With the count 1-1, Triggs threw over to first base to try to keep Andrus honest. It would not help: on the next two pitches, Andrus would steal both second and third bases. One ball later, with the infield in, Andrus bolted home on a Mazara grounder that Trevor Plouffe could not reach. By the time shortstop Adam Rosales was able to gather it and throw, Elvis was sliding across home plate.
With the way Darvish appeared to be cruising, that seemed like a pleasant, but unnecessary insurance run.
“It looked like he lost a little feel for the baseball," Jeff Banister would say later.
Ball one, then ball two, then ball three went Darvish to Plouffe, en route to the first walk of the night for the right-hander. The next batter, Bruce Maxwell, hit a low liner that Jurickson Profar was able to rein in, first leaning, then falling as he notched the first out of the inning.
It would be Darvish’s last out of the game.
Ball one, then ball two to Rosales. Eventually, the count was full, and Darvish hung a cutter over the plate. Rosales swung hard and connected. The game was tied.
Ball one, then ball two to Jaff Decker. He would hit the next pitch to the right field gap for a double.
Ball one to Yonder Alonso. Eight pitches later, it was ball four. It was Darvish’s 82nd pitch of the game. It was also his last. Darvish, who had thrown first-pitch strikes to eleven of the (minimum) fifteen batters he had faced through five innings had thrown just one to the five he faced in the sixth.
As Darvish held his mitt beneath his arm and rubbed the baseball, he noticed the manager making his way to the mound. Darvish slightly opened his hands in an subtle expression of genuine surprise. He didn’t seem to be certain that Banister was taking him out until the manager asked for the ball, and Darvish confirmed as much through his interpreter after the game: ““Yes, the inning before I was on a good pitch count, and I thought I was in a good place. I knew I was pitching a lot that inning, but the pitch count was 80-something, so I thought he was just coming out to talk to me… that was something I didn’t expect.”
You could see the realization cross Darvish’s face as he wordlessly handed the ball to Banister and looked at the ground as he walked off the mound.
“I don’t really know what happened,” Darvish added later. “It happened quick.”
Banister’s explanation? After 26 pitches in the inning, and with Triggs having been so dominant, he felt his best chance to win was not with a now-struggling Darvish. Tony Barnette was summoned.
Ball one, then ball two to Jed Lowrie, who eventually walked to load the bases. There was still just one out. Khris Davis provided the second one, but it came in the form of a sacrifice fly. The hard-fought lead had lasted seven batters. Banister made another trip to the mound, and Dario Alvarez was the next man up.
Strike one was the merciful intro to pinch-hitter Ryon Healy. But The Loss, now having firmly wriggled into the bones, needed to make one last rearrangement. Healy lofted (at 51mph!) Alvarez’ 2-2 pitch on the inside half of the plate towards center field. The Loss placed the ball at the perfect center point between Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus, and Carlos Gomez.
It was 4-2.