x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Texas Rangers’ Yu Darvish just short of history again

Yu Darvish's latest bout with frustration came Friday against the Boston Red Sox, when a David Ortiz grounder broke up his no-hit bid with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

For the second time in his short MLB career, Texas Rangers' starter Yu Darvish took a no-hitter into the final inning only to fall short of the achievement. Tony Gutierrez / AP Photo
For the second time in his short MLB career, Texas Rangers' starter Yu Darvish took a no-hitter into the final inning only to fall short of the achievement. Tony Gutierrez / AP Photo

At this rate, Yu Darvish could end up being the Susan Lucci of Major League Baseball.

Much like the soap opera actress had 19 consecutive years of nominations for a Daytime Emmy for her work on All My Children before finally winning, the MacGuffin of a major-league no-hitter continues to elude Darvish.

His latest bout with frustration came on Friday against the Boston Red Sox, when a David Ortiz grounder broke up his no-hit bid with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

It was sickeningly familiar for the Texas Rangers ace, who lost a perfect game against the Houston Astros last year after surrendering a single with two outs in the ninth.

A look at the list of no-hitters suggests even run-of-the-mill pitchers can stumble their way into the record books. Cincinnati Reds pitcher Homer Bailey (career record 50-47, 4.31 ERA) threw two no-hitters in the space of 10 months, and the likes of Kevin Millwood, Phil Humber and Dallas Braden all have no-hitters to their name.

On the other hand, the consistent excellence that puts Darvish in position to succeed deserves praise. Against Boston, he allowed one hit and two walks while striking out 12 in 8 2/3 innings. He has 68 starts during his three seasons in the majors and has struck out 10 or more batters 20 times.

As for what Darvish must do to complete a no-hitter, Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan told the Dallas Morning News that limiting pitches could be the key.

“One of the big things for Yu to do to throw a no-hitter is cut back on the number of pitches he throws early in a game,” Ryan said. “Because of the pitch limit on him, he’s not accustomed to going 125 [pitches]. When he throws a lot of pitches early in the game, for him to close it out, he’s going to be looking at those kind of numbers.”

Ryan should know, having lost five no-hitters in the ninth during his career.

For all his excellence, Darvish is just 3-1 this season in seven starts.

Part of that is due to a Rangers offence that had scored five runs in the 31 1/3 innings Darvish had pitched going into Friday’s game. No pitcher has received fewer than two runs per game in a full season in 40 years – Darvish’s support rate was 1.44 before Friday.

Darvish has made history in one sense. He is the third pitcher in MLB history to lose a no-hitter in the ninth inning twice, joining Bill Burns of the Washington Senators and Dave Stieb of the Toronto Blue Jays. It seems like only a matter of time, though, before Darvish breaks through and leaves the mound in joy, rather than frustration.

pfreelend@thenational.ae

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