Darvish delivered an amazing, gutsy, you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it performance as the Rangers roll on

Okay, it wasn’t the matchup we hoped for. We wanted Justin Verlander and Yu Darvish to go toe to toe for 11 innings, both throwing 99 mph, each matching the other inning by inning. We wanted one of those games we’d be talking about whenever great pitching matchups are discussed. That we didn’t get.

Verlander didn’t make it out of the third inning as the Rangers turned a 3-1 deficit into an 8-3 lead. Darvish had given up three runs in the top of the inning, so he wasn’t at the top of his game either. After the third inning, it looked like it was going to be a bullpen game for both teams.

“That’s the thing about Yu Darvish,” Ron Washington said later. “He bends but he doesn’t break.”

Only it wasn’t. Darvish stayed. And stayed. For 130 pitches and eight innings. On a night when Ron Washington wanted to give his tired bullpen a breather, Darvish delivered a huge game for the team with the best record in baseball. Darvish competed and battled and competed some more. He rolled out his entire catalogue. He threw some of his usual 95-mph stuff, but he also threw a couple of pitches clocked at 62 mph. When he walked off the mound after the eighth inning, his teammates greeted him with high fives and pats on the back.

Did I say he battled? Goodness, he battled. During a 10-pitch at-bat in the third, Victor Martinez stepped out of the box at one point and smiled at Darvish. Darvish returned the smile and did the same when the at-bat ended with a sacrifice fly. That smile spoke volumes about what these two teams brought to the table Thursday night in North Texas. Miguel Cabrera also stepped out and smiled during an at-bat in which Darvish threw him, in order, 92 mph, 62 mph, 85 mph.

Martinez gestured toward Darvish when they faced one another in the eighth. It was like he was saying, “Okay, let’s see what you’ve got, big fella.”  He did. Here are the speeds of the seven pitches: 67, 64, 97, 64, 94, 84, 96. Yes, fans, the only 64-97-64 combo. Are you kidding me? (V-Mart popped out to Adrian Beltre.)

(By my count, Darvish threw 12 pitches at 95 mph or better and six pitches at 68 mph or slower. Wouldn’t you love to sit in on the scouting reports for this guy?

“Okay, fellas, he can run it up there 97 mph pretty consistently. He’s also got a nasty slider he throws at 85 mph. And there’s this one pitch—we’re not sure what it is—he throws 62 mph. Go get ‘em, boys.

That’s the thing about this wonderful sport. Because we know have the ability to watch every game—that’s your MLB.com at-bat app—we have all these incredible little moments to savor. Sometimes, the games are so good and the competition is so intense that we forget we get to do it all over again 24 hours later. On this night, the Rangers, who are 27-14 and have a seven-game lead in the American League West, were reminded why they invested $100 million in Yu Darvish.

Under GM Jon Daniels, the Rangers have been cautious in their spending. In Darvish, though, they saw someone good enough to build a pitching staff around. It’s not just his assortment of pitches—seven? eight? who knows?—it’s his durability and competitive fire.

Darvish joined Matt Moore as baseball’s only seven-game winners. He’s third in the AL in innings and has 14 more strikeouts than any other Major League pitcher. In nine starts, he has gone fewer than six innings just once and lasted at least seven five times.

In his last 17 starts, he’s 12-2 with a 2.00 ERA and 34 walks and 153 strikeouts. The Rangers are 14-3 in those 17 starts. (During his rookie season, he

joined Herb Score (1955) as the only AL rookies ever to win at least 16 games and strike out at least 221).

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