By STEPHEN HAWKINS
ARLINGTON, Texas — Inconsistency was the key for Yu Darvish.
With a devastating slider going in different directions and command of his fastball, Darvish matched his major-league high with 14 strikeouts and the Texas Rangers won their fourth game in a row, 7-1 over the Arizona Diamondbacks in a makeup game Thursday night.
“Some of (the sliders) were dropping down, some of them were going sideways,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “The movement on my slider was really inconsistent and that worked in my favor.”
Darvish (10-5) certainly had the Diamondbacks hitters baffled, 78 of his 111 pitches were thrown for strikes over seven scoreless innings. He had no walks and scattered five hits in his 50th major league start.
“As a hitter you have a lot of different thought processes in the box,” Arizona’s Adam Eaton said. “When you hit your spots and you have that many pitches, it’s tough as a hitter to put the ball in play and get good swings on the ball.”
Darvish also had 14 strikeouts when he faced the Diamondbacks just more than two months ago. But they managed to score four runs over 7 2-3 innings that night and won with a run in the ninth.
A.J. Pierzynski, Mitch Moreland and David Murphy all homered off Zeke Spruill (0-1), who went four innings in his first major league start. Pierzynski later added a two-run single.
Those homers were all hit early for the Rangers, who came off a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels with game-ending homers in each. They had been shut out in three of the four games before the short homestand, and will now play 10 in a row on the road.
“Our offense has woken up, and the key is to just keep going,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “We knew it was in there, it was just a matter of it coming out, and we’re playing as a group.”
Darvish struck out 10 of his first 13 batters, marking the 16th time since he joined the Rangers from Japan last season that he fanned at least 10. Dwight Gooden with 20 is the only other pitcher since 1900 with more in his first 50 starts.
“He was as good as I’ve seen him all year, counting the almost perfect game he threw the first start of the year. His stuff was just nasty,” said Pierzynski, also the catcher when Darvish retired the first 26 batters at Houston four months ago. “He was throwing fastballs to the corners, he had a really good split, and obviously he always has a slider.
“He just kept mixing it up, and the strikeouts just kept coming and coming. Nights like that are fun.”
It was the fourth game this season Darvish reached 14 strikeouts — there are only two other 14-K games in the majors this season. It is the most 14-strikeout games in one season for the Rangers, surpassing Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan’s three in 1990. Over seven seasons in Japan, Darvish had 15 strikeouts three times.
The only Arizona starter who didn’t strike out was Cody Ross. Leadoff hitter Gerardo Parra, who had a 10-game interleague hitting streak, and All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt both struck out three times against Darvish.
“He was using all his pitches, pounding the strike zone,” Washington said. “Everything he threw up there, they just couldn’t get on.”
The Diamondbacks scored their only run in the ninth inning on Martin Prado’s RBI single.
Arizona had to make a side trip to Texas, on the way from Tampa Bay to Boston, to make up the game postponed on May 29 because of unplayable field conditions. A severe thunderstorm hit the area about an hour before that scheduled game, and the grounds crew struggled to get the tarp on the field.
For the makeup, it was 101 degrees when the game started and still in the upper 90s at the end.
Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz is among 14 players targeted for discipline by Major League Baseball because of their relationship to a closed Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs. The All-Star was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh because of tightness in his left quad.
Depending on the timing and length of any possible suspension, which could be announced this weekend, it could have been the last home game this season for Cruz. He leads the Rangers with 25 home runs and 73 RBIs and is eligible for free agency after the season.