Yu Darvish is making it look easy in Houston.
The 26-year-old right-hander has retired the first 21 batters he’s faced, and will carry a perfect game into the eighth inning at Minute Maid Park. He has his entire arsenal working against a weak Astros lineup — seriously, look at this slider — and boasts a career-high 12 strikeouts through seven frames.
Darvish is already up to 93 pitches and it’s his first outing of the 2013 regular season, so he might not be allowed to finish this thing off. But there isn’t a single pitcher stirring yet in the Texas bullpen.
We’ll provide regular updates as the night rolls on.
UPDATE, 10:39 p.m. ET: Darvish struck out Chris Carter swinging, Rick Ankiel looking and got Justin Maxwell to ground out in the eighth innings. He’s up to 14 strikeouts and 107 total pitches. Still perfect.
Darvish will face the bottom of the Astros’ order in the ninth inning. Texas leads Houston 7-0.
UPDATE, 10:58 p.m. ET: Darvish induced two groundouts in the ninth inning but then allowed a single up the middle to Astros shortstop Marwin Gonzalez. Darvish was pulled right after — at 111 pitches.
As per tradition, towards the end of the regular season, veterans on baseball’s various clubs haze the rookies by making them dress up and do something a bit embarrassing. That used to include things like making rookies dress up like women and carry pink backpacks, but Major League Baseball banned that practice, so veterans had to get marginally more creative.
The Phillies had their rookies — including Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, and Nick Williams — dress up like characters in Grease and perform “Greased Lightning” at their hotel in Atlanta on Friday night. Not only did the Phils’ vets and other members of the crew get a free show, but so did employees of the hotel and nearby hotel patrons.
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As MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki explains, Hoskins was the inspiration for the gag as he has earned the nickname “Rhys Lightning.” (Rhys, for the uninitiated, rhymes with “Grease.”) Hoskins said, “You always hear about team chemistry. I think stuff like that let’s you get to know guys on a different level, when you’re not at the field. You just become more personable with people. The better relationships you have, there’s a different level of playing for each other. And I think that’s usually a sign of a good team.”
The Twins also had some fun at the rookies’ expense:
Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge went yard twice in Sunday afternoon’s 9-5 loss to the Blue Jays, bringing his season total up to 48. That leaves him just one home run shy of tying the single-season rookie record set by Mark McGwire with the Athletics in 1987.
After Sunday’s performance, Judge is hitting .281/.416/.610 with 48 home runs, 105 RBI, and 122 runs scored in 651 plate appearances. He has the AL Rookie of the Year Award on lock and is neck-and-neck with the Astros’ Jose Altuve, Chris Sale of the Red Sox, and the Indians’ Corey Kluber in the AL MVP Award race.