Nationals among teams hoping Yu Darvish heads to MLB

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When 24-year-old Japanese ace Yu Darvish was asked last winter if he was considering making the jump to Major League Baseball for the start of the 2012 season, he offered a “no comment.”

Several months later, Darvish still hasn’t commented on the matter. But that hasn’t stopped MLB teams from scouting him and dreaming of how he might fare near the top of a big league starting rotation.

In late June, Rangers GM Jon Daniels headed to Japan to see Darvish for himself. Many other front office executives have done the same. And every major league club is at least keeping some form of tabs on the 6-foot-5 right-hander.

According to Bill Ladson of MLB.com, we can now add the Nationals to the list of teams that have expressed public interest in acquiring Darvish should he be made available to bidding in the United States.

Darvish registered a 1.82 ERA as a rookie in 2007, a 1.88 ERA in 2008, a 1.73 ERA in 2009, and a 1.78 ERA in 2010. This season, he is 13-2 with a 1.44 ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters. Even with Daisuke Matsuzaka’s failures, Darvish stands to make millions upon millions if he agrees to test out the posting process. He is Japan’s highest-paid player at $6 million annually. In the U.S., he could easily double that.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.