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Yu Darvish, right, the Texas Rangers pitcher, retired the first 26 Houston Astros batsman he faced in a match this weekend.
MIKE STONE
Yu Darvish, right, the Texas Rangers pitcher, retired the first 26 Houston Astros batsman he faced in a match this weekend.

Power of the pitchers holding sway in the MLB

Batters have found it tough to get hits in the opening week of the season.

The baseball adage holds that pitchers will be ahead of hitters as the MLB season begins.

It doesn't say they will make the hitters look clueless. But that was very much the impression the first week of the season.

Twenty-two starting pitchers opened their seasons by throwing at least six innings without allowing an earned run. Eight more starters went at least five innings without permitting an earned run.

One of the more remarkable performances was turned in by Yu Darvish, the Texas Rangers second-year man of Iranian-Japanese descent.

He retired the first 26 Houston Astros batters he faced, missing a perfect game when the would-be final hitter grounded a single through Darvish's legs. The right-hander also struck out 14, the week's high.

"He was awesome," teammate Nelson Cruz told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "That's what you do in video games."

Darvish's was by no means the only digital look-alike performance. Clayton Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander, pitched a four-hit shutout over the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. It was a rare complete game, the kind of arm-taxing effort that managers try to avoid early in the year.

But Kershaw was in a different zone, hitting his first career home run, as well, an extra taunt for the pitcher's dominance.

It was the Giants' turn the next day as their left-handed ace, Madison Bumgarner, gave up only two hits over eight innings as San Francisco shut out the Dodgers.

Kershaw wasn't through. On Saturday he held Pittsburgh on two hits and zero runs over seven innings.

The pitchers appeared almost blase about some of their best games. Darvish called his outing "lucky."

The New York Mets' budding star, Matt Harvey, pitched seven innings, allowing only one single and two walks, while striking out 10 San Diego Padres. Then he told reporters, in a mild complaint, "I didn't throw a curve ball for a strike until the seventh inning. Obviously, I didn't have that working well."

Two of baseball's most potent offenses spent their opener in near-total frustration. The Los Angeles Angels and Cincinnati Reds each were limited to one run through 12 innings before the game mercifully ended in the 13th.

There were some sightings of offense. The Reds scored 15 runs in one game. Tellingly, their opponent, the Washington Nationals, scored none that day.

And Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis belted home runs in each of his first four games, tying a record held by notables Willie Mays, Mark McGwire and that video-game fan, Cruz.

But it was the pitchers week. All the hitters could say was that they have some catching up to do.

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