What To Watch For: Darvish vs Yankees

The Yankees will try to make Yu Darvish look bad tonight. (Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

The Yankees will try to make Yu Darvish look bad tonight. (Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

The Yankees face the Rangers’ ace Yu Darvish tonight in the third game of this four-game series. Here are a few things to look for when watching and praying for some runs against one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Which Yu is it?
There is no doubt that Darvish is having an excellent season, with a 2.88 ERA over 18 starts and a league-leading strikeout rate of 11.4 per nine innings.

However, after starting the season strong with a 2.08 ERA and nine quality starts in his first 10 outings, he has been very inconsistent over his last eight turns.

His ERA is a shade under 4.00 since June 6 and he has given up at least four runs in five of his last eight games. He is coming off a 12-strikeout, one-run effort against the Blue Jays on Friday, but that followed a six-run, 10-hit disaster against the Astros in his final start prior to the break.

YU DARVISH THIS SEASON

ERA AVG SLUG OPS K% BB%
First 10 Starts 2.08 0.210 0.304 0.578 29.5% 7.5%
Last 8 Starts 3.93 0.259 0.423 0.750 31.7% 9.4%

One issue that has plagued Darvish over the last six weeks has been the gopher ball. He’s given up seven homers over those eight starts, compared to just three in his first 10 starts.

He has also struggled to get opposite-handed batters out, with lefties tagging him for a .278/.370/.476 line and six homers since June 6. In the same timeframe, righties have hit just .227 with a .247 on-base percentage against him.

Welcome to Yankee Stadium
Problems with the longball plus trouble against lefties does not seem like a good scouting report for a pitcher about to take the mound at Yankee Stadium, even if he is facing a weak Yankees offense.

In fact, the Yankees might be primed to take advantage of Darvish’s recent inconsistency. Their two hottest hitters – Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury – both swing from the left side of the plate and have combined to hit .319 with five homers since July 1.

The Yankees also crushed Darvish in his lone career start at Yankee Stadium last June. They homered three times off him – the only team ever to do that – and chased him after scoring three runs on seven hits in his 5 1/3 innings pitched.

Inside the Matchup: Darvish vs Ichiro
The most anticipated matchup of the game (at least in Japan) might be between Darvish and Ichiro Suzuki, who have faced off 17 times prior to Wednesday.

Ichiro has gotten the best of his countryman in their previous battles, going 7-for-17 with two extra-base hits. That .412 batting average is the second-highest among players with at least 15 at-bats vs Darvish.

Ichiro vs Darvish

However, it’s really a tale of two seasons for this pairing – Ichiro was 6-for-11 against Darvish in 2012, and 1-for-6 against him last year.

Ichiro is looking to break out of his own recent slump, with one hit in his last 24 at-bats. The lone hit in that span came against a lefty (Manny Parra on July 20), so he is now hitless in his last 22 at-bats against righties. He hasn’t gotten a hit (or a walk) against a right-handed pitcher since a double on July 11 off Miguel Gonzalez.

As mentioned above, Darvish has had his troubles lately in retiring left-handed batters, so it will be very interesting to see who wins this battle tonight.

Former ESPN researcher; forever baseball and Yankees fan. Now living in northern Vermont and the color of the front door of our house is Yankee blue. Also write about college football and basketball and the NFL. Bleed Huskies blue (that's UConn, of course).

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