No kidding — Mariners sure have Yu Darvish's number
The Mariners, for all their offensive fits and lack of hits, sure are good at one thing. Humanizing Yu Darvish.
Seattle Times staff columnist
The Mariners, for all their offensive fits and lack of hits, sure are good at one thing.
Humanizing Yu Darvish.
Some dude named Philip Humber can throw a perfect game against them. Maligned Boston pitchers Jon Lester and Josh Beckett can get right against them. Bartolo Colon can resurface against them. But Darvish, baseball's fresh ace, has no chance.
He must think the Mariners are the new Big Red Machine. The Japanese pitching prodigy has dominated the early weeks of his first major-league season — except for his two starts against the Mariners. He made his debut against Seattle in April and allowed four runs in the first inning en route to a disappointing performance: 5-2/3 innings pitched, eight hits, five earned runs, four walks.
On Monday, he faced Seattle again, his first rematch against a ballclub this season. This time, Darvish was even worse. He lasted only four innings, walked six batters and allowed five runs (four earned).
In two starts against the Mariners, Darvish now has an 8.38 ERA. He has a 1.94 ERA against the rest of baseball, those mere mortals.
The unavoidable bad pun:
Yu have got to be kidding, right?
Welcome to Seattle, where pitching phenoms go to be humbled.
Don't buy it? OK, let's try that again.
Welcome to Seattle, where Felix Hernandez is King, always.
King Felix dominated this delectable pitching matchup. While Darvish struggled, Hernandez threw eight innings, allowed only one run (on a homer to Mitch Moreland in the eighth) on six hits and struck out seven batters. He held Josh Hamilton hitless in four at-bats.
"How hot he is right now, that was pretty good," Hernandez joked, marveling at his ability to cool down Hamilton, who's been on a seasonlong tear.
Hernandez left the mound screaming and trembling with emotion. He was into it. He controlled the best lineup in baseball, even better than the Mariners are against Darvish.
With the King's Court — a section of fans wearing gold No. 34 T-shirts — rocking and chanting "Let's go Feee-lixxx!" from the first pitch, making the Safeco Field crowd quite loud for only 18,672 visitors, Hernandez rebounded from two subpar starts and proved to be more refined than his counterpart. In a matchup of immensely gifted vs. ridiculous gifted, Hernandez won this one because of his polish.
"He just really commanded the ballgame throughout," manager Eric Wedge said. "Every pitch has to have a purpose. And Felix understands that better than anybody."
Early on, Darvish's intoxicating raw talent made Hernandez seem, well, old. That's no knock on King Felix, who is far from graying. In fact, Hernandez, who turned 26 in April, is just four months older than Darvish, who turns 26 in August. But that's just how electric Darvish — who can be overeager and erratic — seems when he's dancing between 69 mph curveballs and 96 mph fastballs and displaying stunning athleticism for a 6-foot-5 pitcher.
Hernandez used to be that way, trying to put his all into every pitch. Now, though, he's a true pitcher. He's in his eighth major-league season. He has thrown nearly 1,500 innings. King Felix has been the new kid trying to show off all his stuff. Now, he's more surgical in his approach, pitching to contact, trusting his teammates, understanding how to best utilize his array of pitches.
Darvish will probably get to that level. His repertoire might be even greater, but he's still learning how to be consistent at this level. You remember what that process was like for Hernandez. It's impressive that Darvish has had this much success this soon.
Even though he wouldn't admit it, Hernandez was amped up for this one. He loves the big moment. He loves the challenge of going pitch for pitch against the game's best. That's why he normally pitches well in New York. And that's why he owned Monday's matchup.
So did Ichiro. He taught the younger Japanese star a lesson once again. Ichiro had hits in his first two at-bats, including a first-inning RBI triple and an RBI single that amounted to his first run-scoring hit with a runner in scoring position since May 8. This season, Ichiro is 5 for 7 against Darvish.
Leave it to the Mariners to stink against most every pitcher in baseball and excel versus one of the game's rising stars. Maybe it's just dumb luck, or maybe they truly have his number.
Darvish will be just fine. He'll continue to evolve — as long as he doesn't have to face those dangerous Mariners every start.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or email@example.com
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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