Matthew Pouliot

Alexi Ogando

Rangers strike out 15 Astros in second straight shutout

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Alexi Ogando wasn’t quite Yu Darvish today, but he did surrender just four hits and strike out 10 Astros over 6 1/3 innings in the Rangers’ 4-0 win.

Michael Kirkman and Joe Nathan combined to fan five in relief, giving the Rangers their second straight 15-strikeout game. Darvish racked up that many all by himself in his near-perfect game last night.

The Astros became the fourth team since 2000 to strike out 15 times in back-to-back games. The 2002 Brewers did it against the Diamondbacks and the duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. It also happened last year to the Mariners (versus the Rays) and the Pirates (versus the Brewers). In all, the Astros fanned 43 times in the three-game series, though they did sneak in a win in Sunday night’s opener.

That made the Rangers the first team in big league history (well, at least since 1916 and probably before) to strike out at least 13 batters in the first three games of the season. The 2001 Diamondbacks, again with Johnson and Schilling, were the only team since 1916 to start off with two such games.

Yu Darvish pitched near-perfect game with a finger blister

Yu Darvish
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While Yu Darvish was dispatching of Astros with ease Tuesday night, a blister was popping up on his right ring finger, he Star-Telegram’s Jeff Wilson reports.

Fortunately, it was just a small one, and the Rangers don’t seem concerned about it at all. Darvish played catch in the outfield today and is expected to make his next start against the Angels on Sunday.

Darvish retired the first 26 batters he faced last night before giving up a single to Marwin Gonzalez with two outs in the ninth. He became the 11th pitcher in big-league history to lose a perfect game after 26 outs.

Afterwards, he took to twitter and unleashed what we can only imagine is a string of profanities directed at Gonzalez.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p>あと一人て。。なんでやねん!!</p>&mdash; ダルビッシュ有(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) <a href=”https://twitter.com/faridyu/status/319299093505654784″>April 3, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

Marlins top prospects all land on the disabled list

Christian Yelich
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Besides Giancarlo Stanton and maybe right-hander Jose Fernandez, the Marlins’ shining light this year was going to be their remarkable Double-A outfield; Christian Yelich is one of baseball’s very best prospects and both Jake Marisnick, who was acquired from the Blue Jays in the Jose Reyes trade, and Marcell Ozuna rate comfortably within the top 100.

However, the Sun Sentinel’s Juan C. Rodriguez reports that each member of that trio is set to start the season on the DL. Yelich has plantar faciitis, while both Marisnick and Ozuna are sidelined with fractured hands.

Yelich is expected back the soonest. The 21-year-old caught the eyes of everyone while hitting .364/.451/.818 with five homers, 14 RBI and a 7/6 K/BB ratio in 44 at-bats this spring. Assuming a quick recovery, he has a very good chance of taking over as the Marlins’ center fielder in May or June.

Marisnick and Ozuna are further away both in their recoveries and from reaching the the majors, though Ozuna might get a look in the second half. The Marlins’ plan was for Yelich and Marisnick to split time between center and left for Jacksonville, with Ozuna starting in right.

Thanks to Heath Bell, some couple is probably breaking up tonight

Pete Kozma homer
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Making his Diamondbacks debut, Heath Bell gave up two homers in the seventh inning Tuesday against the Cardinals. The first of them, coming off the bat of shortstop Pete Kozma, is most likely going to get this guy dumped after he bailed on his girlfriend with the ball coming down.

Jon Jay hit the second a couple of batters later. For all of his difficulties last year, Bell gave up just five homers in 63 2/3 innings for the Marlins. Of course, he was pitching half of the time in a great ballpark for pitchers then. Now he has Chase Field to contend with. He’s already 40 percent to last year’s homer total while having gotten just one out tonight.

GIF courtesy of Cork Gaines and TheBloodyOwl.com.

Yu Darvish not quite perfect, but plenty close enough

Yu Darvish
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It looked like destiny was on his side when Yu Darvish made such quick work of Jason Castro and Carlos Corporan to start the ninth inning Tuesday against Astros. Seconds later, destiny rolled right between his legs into center field.

In the end, the pitch count may have gotten to Darvish. Not that he seemed stressed at all, but everyone else was, since he wasn’t slated to throw more than 90-100 pitches tonight after taking it relatively easy in spring training. Having skipped the WBC, his high pitch total in March was 73. The two-out single Marwin Gonzalez hit off him in the bottom of the ninth tonight came on his 111th and final pitch. The Rangers removed him immediately, and Michael Kirkman went on to finish off the 7-0 victory.

Knowing that the Rangers wanted a quick inning — actually, they really didn’t want to send him back out for the ninth at all — Darvish attacked the plate and got two quick groundouts. Gonzalez, too, swung at the first pitch, knocking it right back through the box past Darvish and shortstop Elvis Andrus.

Whille Darvish didn’t get his perfect game, it was a marvelous effort. He fanned 14 of the first 23 hitters he faced, before he seemed to stop going for the K. Prior to Gonzalez’s single, Chris Carter’s drive to the wall in the fifth was the only occasion on which the Astros came close to a hit .

If anything takes away from the outing, it’s that it did come against the American League’s worst offense. The Astros are going to be prone to games like this. Jose Altuve is the only high-average hitter in the entire lineup, and one imagines other pitchers will pull off impressive feats against the team this year, whether it’s a no-hitter or an 18-strikeout game.

Darvish, though, would have done much the same against any lineup tonight. Maybe not a no-hitter, but eight scoreless innings anyway. Darvish’s command can waver, but his varied arsenal and moving fastball make him about as tough to hit as any AL starter. If, with a year in the majors under his belt, he’s completed the adjustment to pitching every five or six days, as opposed to once a week in Japan, he’s a threat for AL Cy Young honors. He already finds himself with a nice head start.

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