Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 5/6/12
Sunday marked the one-month anniversary of the 2012 season for the Texas Rangers and we know plenty about the team. We know the Rangers are the best team in the American League West right now. We know they need both Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton to be healthy for the Rangers to be able to click on all cylinders offensively. We know the bullpen is very good. We also know that Yu Darvish is the ace of the staff. Even though Darvish didn't pitch up to his lofty standards in Sundays 4-2 loss to Cleveland, he still gave the Rangers a chance to win by pitching six innings without much in the way of fastball command. It just so happened that his lack of command and the lack of his defense to make plays behind him spoiled Darvish's chances of running his record to 5-0 in his rookie year. But what Darvish (4-1) did again Sunday was show why he's the closest thing to a legitimate ace the Rangers have had since Cliff Lee's brief stay with the club in 2010. There's a buzz every time Darvish pitches, the same way it was when Lee was here. Or Nolan Ryan. You can look back in the history of the club and there's probably just a handful of pitchers that have the ability to make something special happen each time they pitch. Lee had it. Ryan certainly did. So does Darvish. He showed that Sunday too. He threw way too many pitches in his six innings (112) but some of those pitches were unhittable. The curveball was his best pitch and helped pave the way for 11 strikeouts, the most by a Texas pitcher this season and the most since C.J. Wilson struck out 11 last September against Oakland. Darvish has already reached double figures in strikeouts twice this season, something Wilson did six times in his 34 starts last season. One facet of Darvish's game that makes him ace worth is his ability to work out of jams. He did it in both the first and second innings. His strikeout of Jack Hannahan to end the second inning made opponents just 7 for 40 against Darvish with runners in scoring position this year. Of course it all unraveled in the third, but it wasn't solely Darvish's fault. Ian Kinsler lost a pop fly off the bat of Johnny Damon to open the third. A walk to Jason Kipnis set the stage for Asdrubal Cabrera, who lined a two-run double down the line in right. That could have been all of the damage if Elvis Andrus would have been content to eat a Shin-Soo Choo infielder grounder instead of trying for a highlight play. The Andrus error allowed the third run to score. But Darvish responded by pitching three more innings and allowing just one more run on a solo homer by Jason Kipnis. Six of his strikeouts came after the third when Darvish seemed to settle in. Darvish is far from perfect. He still throws too many pitches. He was at 62 after just three innings Sunday, dooming his chances of pitching deep into the game. He still has problems vs. left-handers too. Cleveland started a lineup with nine players hitting from the left side. That was a wise move against a pitcher who was allowing left-handers to hit .263 against him coming into the game. Colby Lewis is still the veteran stabilizer on the staff. Derek Holland Matt Harrison have more good days than bad from the left side. Neftali Feliz is still a work in progress. But Darvish is a No. 1 starter right now. He showed that against the New York Yankees. He did it against Detroit and Toronto. His next start Friday will be the most anticipated game of the season since Darvish made his debut. Thats when he'll go head-to-head against Wilson. It was Wilson last year who was the team's No. 1 starter. That was by default though because the Rangers didnt have any other pitcher ready to take over that role. They do now.
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