ARLINGTON, Texas — Justin Verlander flopped in his Texas showdown with Yu Darvish. The Japanese star was about to do the same until he settled down after the pitching duel fizzled.
Geovany Soto ended Verlander’s night with a three-run homer that capped a seven-run third, and Darvish needed a career-high 130 pitches to get through eight innings in the Texas Rangers’ 10-4 win over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.
Darvish gave up a home run to Jhonny Peralta, the first batter he faced after the Texas outburst that sent a shell-shocked Verlander to the Detroit dugout in his shortest outing in nearly three years. The drive made it three straight games with two homers allowed for Darvish, and pulled Detroit to 8-4.
Then the right-hander retired 15 of the final 16 Tigers he faced, including 10 straight.
“The thing about Yu Darvish, he bends but he never breaks,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “That’s a tremendous lineup he went through. After that third inning, he settled in and found something that was working and he continued to pitch.”
Soto’s drive just over the wall in left field came after Verlander walked in two runs — he had three previous bases-loaded walks in his career. Mitch Moreland’s two-out double broke a 3-all tie before Soto’s drive put Texas ahead 8-3.
“It wasn’t much of a night to begin with but I’d definitely say the whole game kind of carry-over from my last start,” said Verlander, who was coming off his worst outing of the year in a loss to Cleveland. “I’m not somebody who is going to go home and pout about this, I’m somebody who is going to figure it out and figure it out in a hurry.”
Darvish (7-1) won his fifth straight decision despite allowing two home runs for the third start in a row. Baseball’s strikeout leader matched his season low with six strikeouts, and didn’t get the last one until Washington decided to bring him back out for the eighth even though he’d already thrown 115 pitches.
“Wash asked me if I could go longer and he seemed like he wanted to go a little bit longer,” Darvish said. “And I felt really good so I wanted to go. The bullpen guys were pretty used up in that last series so I wanted to go.”
Verlander (4-4) gave up six hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 2 2-3 innings, his shortest outing since going two innings in a 14-6 loss to the New York Mets on June 22, 2010.
The 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner had allowed just four earned runs in four previous starts at Rangers Ballpark. It was actually the second time in Verlander’s last 16 starts dating to last season that he’s allowed eight runs, his career high. He did it in a 9-8 loss to Kansas City last August.
“It was one of those where I think everybody in the world was looking for the matchup and it didn’t turn out too good,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “Those two guys out there and there were 12 runs scored — I don’t think anybody expected that. We probably let down the audience a little bit.”
Two nights after hitting two home runs in Oakland, Moreland had two doubles and three RBIs and pushed his batting average to .296 less than a month after he was hitting .157.
Darvish ran into trouble first when five of the first six Detroit hitters in the third inning reached, starting with Don Kelly’s first home run of the season into the lower porch in right field. Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez had sacrifice flies to put the Tigers ahead 3-1.
Verlander, the AL’s strikeout leader the past two years, gave up consecutive singles to start the first and third innings. The Rangers scored just once in the first, but the right-hander couldn’t survive the third once his control escaped him.
After Verlander hit Ian Kinsler with a curveball to loaded the bases, Elvis Andrus walked to score a run before Lance Berkman struck out on check swing on a pitch so high it bounced off the bricks behind home plate and came straight back to the catcher Kelly. Adrian Beltre walked to tie the score, and the hits from Moreland and Soto came after one of three strikeouts by Nelson Cruz, who hit his 11th homer.
Between them, Verlander and Darvish threw 74 pitches in the third inning and allowed 12 base runners and 10 runs. It wasn’t quite the duel fans expected in Arlington’s most anticipated pitching matchup since Nolan Ryan beat Roger Clemens 2-1 in 1989.
“They both had a bad third inning,” Leyland said. “Justin was just quite worse than his but his wasn’t too good either. We really grinded out our at-bats and they did, too. That’s one thing this club does and that’s one thing we do, too.”