ARLINGTON — (Wire Service Report) – Right-hander Yu Darvish was a spectator last year when the Texas Rangers lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Division Series. Darvish missed the entire 2015 season while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. Now Darvish is all the way back and hoping to help the Rangers win their first World Series title. He’ll have a chance to help Friday when he starts a pivotal Game 2 of the ALDS against the Jays and 20-game winner J.A. Happ. After Thursday’s 10-1 loss the Rangers are now 1-10 in ALDS history in games at Globe Life Park.
They desperately need a strong outing from Darvish to turn the series around and avoid going to Toronto down 0-2. Darvish, who went 7-5 in the regular season, is eager to pitch in his first playoff game since he got the nod for Texas in the wild-card game in 2013.
“Last year I couldn’t pitch,” Darvish said. “I wanted to pitch but I couldn’t. And this year I’m physically healthy and I’m ready. I can pitch in the game. So I’m happy about that.”
The Rangers need Darvish to pitch like his did to end the season. Over his final two starts, Darvish allowed just one earned run in 13 innings. He gave up five hits and struck out 21.
“The last few years I’ve been working on my command,” Darvish said. “Maybe I was overthinking it. I was thinking too much about commanding my stuff. And then I was able to fix those mental adjustments and just a few minor mechanical changes on those days that I was able to work on. And I’m in a good place right now.”
While Darvish has been considered an ace since he joined the Rangers in 2012, he’s never had a 20-win season like Happ did this year for the Blue Jays. Happ went 20-4 for Toronto, reaching the 20-win mark for the first time in his career. He’s a key reason Toronto made the postseason, and now he’ll be pitching in the postseason for the first time since he was pitching for Philadelphia in 2009. He spent three years with Toronto from 2012-2014 but had nowhere near the success he’s had this year. He won a total of 19 games in his first stint.
“He kind of reinvented himself,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “He was always considered kind of a power pitcher, a lot of strikeouts, throw a lot of pitches, five innings, 100-plus pitches was nothing to him. That’s just the way he worked. He’s a control guy now. And he’s got some power behind it too.”
This version of Happ faced the Rangers earlier this year and was dominant, giving up one run on six hits in a victory. He doesn’t plan on changing up his game plan for Texas on Friday either.
“I think the biggest thing is to keep my mentality the same and that’s to be aggressive,” Happ said. “I think you’re always searching for maybe tinkering with a few things to make certain pitches a little better or maybe trying to come up a new pitch that can work for you. But keep that same aggressive mentality, and I think that will be huge for me going forward.”