Yu Darvish impresses in his first major league action

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Months of anticipation of Yu Darvish’s debut led up to less than a half hour of baseball action, but it was exciting baseball action all the same. The tale of the tape: two innings, 36 pitches, 26 strikes, no runs, a couple of hits, three strikeouts, a spiffy defensive play and the beginning of what’s bound to be a fabulous career.

My first impression of Darvish: he’s tall. We knew he was tall, but after seeing a half inning of Jeff Suppan before him, he looked all the taller. He also throws hard. We knew he threw hard, but after seeing a half inning of Jeff Suppan before him, he looked like he threw all the harder. And, at least according to these uneducated eyes, he had offspeed and breaking stuff that should be illegal.

Not that it was perfect: he gave up two doubles. One, by Orlando Hudson, was not very hard hit. The other, by Will Venable, was tattooed and probably would have been a homer if not for the very tall wall in center field here at the Peoria Sports Complex.  Venable was erased a couple batters later, however, when James Darnell chopped one in front of the plate, Darvish reached up tall — did I mention he was tall? — stabbed it, fired to his catcher and caught Venable in between third and home.  Greg Maddux, who has been working with Darvish in Rangers camp as a special assistant and made that play hundreds of times in his career, is likely to be proud.

Apart from that: three strikeouts: Cameron Maybin to lead off, Carlos Quentin to end the first and then John Baker to end the second.  Quention and Baker looked confused at the offspeed stuff. Baker looked practically lost. He may have well as had a piano leg with him.

And a final note that tells us that Darvish is a different guy altogether. Strike two to Baker was a hard foul back that just cleared the screen behind the plate and made the concourse just to the third base side. A man dove for the ball, dropping what was in his hands, and laid out full on the concrete to pick up the souvenir.  The man who dove: a credentialed Japanese photographer. The thing he dropped: a very expensive-looking camera.

You don’t do that for just anyone. But you do it for Yu.

Another young fan was struck by a foul ball, this time at Guaranteed Rate Field

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ESPN reports via the Associated Press that a young boy was struck by a line drive foul ball but was not seriously injured during Sunday afternoon’s game against the Royals. The boy and a woman were escorted by a first aid crew to the concourse area and the boy was later eating ice cream in a luxury suite.

A woman was struck in the face by a foul ball also on the first base side at Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday, but she didn’t request medical assistance.

Last week, a young fan at Yankee Stadium was hit by a line drive foul ball, which motivated several teams to commit to extending protective netting at their ballparks. The Yankees, strangely, were not among them. Nor were the White Sox.

Diamondbacks clinch NL Wild Card

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Losses by the Cardinals to the Pirates and the Brewers to the Cubs on Sunday clinched an NL Wild Card berth for the Diamondbacks. Their walk-off, 3-2 win over the Marlins earned them hosting rights for the Wild Card game.

The D-Backs, now 90-66, trailed the Marlins 2-1 going into the bottom of the eighth. Daniel Descalso tied the game at two apiece with an RBI single off of Brad Ziegler. Second half hero J.D. Martinez secured the win with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth against Javy Guerra.

The Rockies beat the Padres on Sunday to increase their lead over the Brewers (+2) and Cardinals (+2.5) for the second Wild Card slot. One of these three teams will visit Arizona for the Wild Card game.

The Diamondbacks are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2011, when they lost the Division Series in five games to the Brewers.