Picking Back Up

What was strangest about this All-Star break was the extra day. Over 40 years of following baseball and if there’s one thing I’m used to, it’s a three-day All-Star break. Having the extra day was, well, disconcerting. There wasn’t much of anything to write about, although some ideas for the future popped into my head. In the end, this weekend has been my All-Star break, letting a few games digest in my mind before trying to come up with anything noteworthy to write about.

As has been increasingly frustrating, the Rangers didn’t score a lot of runs in their first three games back. In fact, the 4-spot they put up on Sunday was them highest output of runs they’ve had over the past ten games. Definitely not Rangers-worthy offense. On the other hand, the pitching staff is getting ready to return to a semblance of normalcy. Derek Holland came off the DL just prior to the break and started the first game on Friday, throwing 7 2/3 scoreless innings. Colby Lewis returns on Wednesday against the A’s. In the relief corps, Alexi Ogando has been pronounced fit to go and will be in the bullpen come Tuesday. Koji Uehara could possibly join him there on the same day. That would leave just Mark Lowe and Neftali Feliz as hurlers on the DL and Feliz made his first rehab start on Sunday. Meanwhile, Matt Harrison keeps rolling along, tossing his second shutout of the season on Sunday in a 4-0 win to keep the AL lead in wins with 12.

Texas started the second half by taking two of three in Seattle and putting another game of space between themselves and the Angels, who lost two of three to the Yankees. The game they lost is the one that gets me weirded out. Texas lost the game, 7-0, as Felix Hernandez tossed a three-hit shutout. I can deal with the loss itself, even the shutout since it was King Felix on the mound. What has me weirded out is what the deal is with Yu Darvish and the Seattle Mariners.

For the season, Darvish is a fine 10-6 with 3.96 ERA. Yeah the ERA could be better, but all in all, Darvish has performed at expectations or maybe even a little better for a pitcher in his first year in the American bigs. Here’s the thing, though. Take away his three starts against the Seattle Mariners and Darvish is a pretty impressive 9-4 with a 3.09 ERA. The league as a whole is only hitting .231 against Darvish. Take away the Mariners offense and it’s a miserly .218.

Yes, inexplicably, one of the worst offenses in the American League is hitting Darvish at a .294 clip. In three games against Seattle, Darvish is 1-2 with an ERA of 9.00. Ichiro alone is hitting .600 against his fellow countryman. Just about 25% of Darvish’s 57 walks on the season have been to Mariners batters. On balls in play (BABIP), the league is at .300, which is considered average. The Mariners BABIP against Darvish is .352.

Who knows what it is. Does facing another Japanese legend like Ichiro affect his concentration or is all this just a fluke? I remember years ago, someone asked Hall of Famer Tom Seaver about the toughest hitters for him to face and he surprisingly answered Tommy Hutton, who had a .248 career average and only 22 home runs in 12 seasons. Seaver said it didn’t matter what he threw, Hutton would hit it. Maybe the Mariners are Yu Darvish’s Tommy Hutton. The way it’s going, I’m just glad the odds are pretty good he won’t have to face Seattle in a playoff game.