It wouldn't be the first time a spouse has helped spawn a mid-season epiphany. In 2015, Shin-Soo Choo's extended slump threatened to ruin his season before a conversation with his wife helped him find the needed perspective to not just snap out of it, but become one of the best hitters in the league for the second half of the 2015 season. The red-hot Choo played a pivotal role in the Rangers' remarkable come-from-behind division win.
Yu Darvish hadn't been slumping, necessarily, but neither he did seem to be dominating the competition as he (and Rangers fans) expected. But Darvish told us this week that he had something of a breakthrough earlier this month, with the help of his wife Seiko, who is a four time World Champion (and two-time Asian Champion) wrestler.
It was just after his June 2nd start when the wheels began to turn. Darvish had faced the Astros at home, and while he had held them scoreless for four innings, Houston eventually broke through in the fifth, scoring three runs and ultimately ending Darvish’s day. By the time he walked off the mound, he had thrown 105 pitches in those five innings, and the Astros had fouled off 19 of them (not counting two infield foul-outs).
“They made me throw a lot of pitches,” Darvish said. “I was able to shut them out until the 4th inning, but I didn’t feel that I was winning, so I asked myself 'how could I go to the next level?'"
Darvish said that a conversation with a friend gave him the idea that now, having been in the league for awhile, not only did he have scouting reports on the opposition, but the reverse was also true: they had scouting reports on him. Perhaps the key was not just in exposing the weaknesses of the batters, but also in better identifying his own.
“I went home and talked to Seiko,” Darvish continued “She said that she had watched a lot of videos (of herself), so that prompted me to do so too. She was rivals with Saori Yoshida (3 time Olympic gold medalist, four Asian games and 13 world championships) and there was a time that all of a sudden Yoshida was able to get into a hold with Seiko, so (Seiko) looked at video (of herself) and was able to find her weakness(es).
In the five games leading up to and including that June 2nd game, Darvish had lasted 6, 7, 5, 6, and 5 innings. Since then, Darvish has pitched twice: In the first, he pitched 7⅓ innings in a no-decision on June 7th against the Mets. In the second? He faced the Astros again. This time, they fouled off 20 of his 103 pitches.
But something worked: this time, against the same lineup that had scored three runs in five innings just ten days prior, Darvish finished the 7th inning. He had allowed just one run on one hit.