Yu Darvish, Rangers shut down Blue Jays' bats

Yu Darvish continued to live up to the hype as the Texas Rangers defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 on Monday. Darvish held the Blue Jays to four hits and one run while striking out nine in seven innings, improving to 4-0 in five starts.

Pitcher gives up just 4 hits, strikes out 9 in 7 innings

Yu Darvish gave up just four hits over seven innings, while striking out nine batters against the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night. (Abelimages/Getty Images)

Yu Darvish isn't taking his very impressive start in the major leagues for granted.

While he is adjusting from pitching in Japan to pitching in the majors, he realizes that the teams that he faces have never hit against him before.

So he is not about to rest on his laurels after the Texas Rangers beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 on Monday to put him at 4-0 record with a 2.18 earned-run average after five major-league starts.

"I'm very aware that all these hitters on the teams that are facing me, they are seeing me for the first time," Darvish said through a translator. "It's only April. So I'm not thinking about how I did this month. Right now all I'm thinking about is preparing well for the next one."

The one Blue Jay who seemed to have Darvish figured out was  designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion.

He homered for the fourth consecutive game in the fourth inning and singled in the seventh inning against Darvish (4-0). It was the first homer allowed this season by Darvish.

"I don't expect him to go 32-0," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. But the thing about him he will keep us in ballgames."

So far there has been lots to like about the right-hander who was acquired from Japan by the Rangers in a bidding process.

He held the Blue Jays to four hits and one run while striking out nine in seven innings.

Mitch Moreland and Craig Gentry hit home runs for Texas against left-handed reliever Evan Crawford in the seventh.

Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his sixth save.

Kyle Drabek (2-2) gave the Blue Jays six strong innings, allowing five hits and two runs while striking out eight as his earned-run average increased slightly to 2.40.

"People wanted [Darvish] for a reason, he's a great pitcher, he's got good stuff, so he did a good job tonight," Drabek said.

One of the teams that reportedly wanted him was the Blue Jays, who were rumoured to be in the think of the bidding war for his services.

"Honestly, it was kind of an awkward feeling because rumour has it that this was a team that might have posted for me and there was some chance that I might have played for this team," Darvish said. "Facing the Blue Jays, they could have been my teammates."

In Darvish's previous start on April 24, he held the New York Yankees to seven hits and no runs over 8 1/3 innings while striking out 10.

"Every game is different," Washington said. "The hitters in the Toronto lineup are totally different than the hitters in the Yankees lineup.

"He executed pitches. He got them in situations where, I mean, from my perspective his arm action was consistent on every single pitch threw whether it was a change-up, whether it was a slider, split, fastball, it didn't matter, That's tough when your arm action is that consistent."

Darvish pitched from the stretch even when there were no runners on base. Washington said he felt comfortable pitching that way.

"We had a fairly thorough scouting report coming in," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "But the fact that he could throw his fastball to both sides of the plate and, as we talked prior to the game, he doesn't settle into any one pattern. He had a split that he could attack left-handers with, backdoor breaking balls as well. But obviously wasn't afraid to throw any one pitch in a given count."

Farrell also had praise for Drabek.

"I thought Kyle threw the ball very well for us, seemed to get stronger as the game went along until I felt like with his pitch count, it was time to remove him from the game," Farrell said. "But we had a couple of opportunities against Darvish but it seemed like he would get a strikeout when needed to shut an inning off."

In the second the Rangers struck for a run on doubles by Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz.

Darvish walked Adam Lind to start the home second and hit Encarnacion with a pitch before retiring the next three batters, two on strikeouts.

Meanwhile the Rangers (17-6) added to their lead in the third. Ian Kinsler walked with one out and scored on a double by Elvis  Andrus.

But with two out in the fourth, the Blue Jays (12-11) began to figure out Darvish. Encarnacion hit his eighth homer of the season.

It is the second time as a Blue Jay that Encarnacion has homered in four consecutive games. He also did it in the final four games of the 2010 season. Carlos Delgado and Joe Carter are the other two Blue Jays who have twice homered in four consecutive games.

Eric Thames followed with a double to right but Brett Lawrie's grounder to short ended the inning.

Crawford replaced Drabek to open the seventh and faced two batters, giving up Moreland's third homer of the season and the first by Gentry to increase the Rangers' lead to 4-1.

Mike Adams replaced Darvish, who walked two and made 97 pitches, in the eighth inning.

"Baseball is general," Washington said. "It's played the same no matter where you are. He was a star in Japan and the stuff he had in Japan it parlays over here. It just tells you that in the 4-0 start."