Baseball: Dazzling Darvish improves to 7-1

Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish of Japan has stretched his Major League Baseball strikeouts lead and improved to 7-1 on the season after an impressive eight-inning effort in downing Detroit.

An expected American League showdown with Tigers' ace Justin Verlander never developed as the Detroit hurler lasted only 2 2/3 innings, his shortest outing in almost three years, as the Rangers imposed a seven-run third inning Thursday on the way to a 10-4 triumph.

Japan's Darvish, in his second season since leaving his homeland, struck out six over eight innings and his 86 strikeouts so far this season are the most of any major league pitcher.

At 27-14, the Rangers have the best record in the major leagues after winning seven of their past eight games.

Darvish surrendered three runs in the third inning and a leadoff home run in the fourth but settled down and kept the Tigers at bay the rest of the way. In all he allowed four runs on seven hits while walking only one batter.

"He didn't panic and gave us another solid start," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "That was a tremendous lineup that he went through. After the third inning, he settled in, found something that was working and got through it."

Darvish tossed a career-high 130 pitches in the game, the most by any Texas pitcher since knuckleballer R.A. Dickey threw 131 in 2004 against Boston.

"I pitched well the first two innings," Darvish said. "It was just that one inning, in the third inning, it went really bad. But I didn't change anything. I just got hit."

Helping Darvish to his sensational start has been the highest run support for any pitcher in the American League. Texas hitters have driven in 9.05 runs for every nine innings of work by Darvish this season.

Washington stayed with Darvish on the mound even after the Rangers were ahead comfortably, resting his staff of relief pitchers as the 26-year-old right-hander from Kobe baffled the Tigers in the late innings.

Darvish threw 63 pitches in the first three innings and 67 more in the final five innings, when he retired 15 of 16 batters he faced.

"I saw we had a big lead, but with the lineup they've got, they're not soft anywhere," Washington said. "Even though we had a big lead, I was never comfortable.

"If you look at his last few innings, he wasn't stressed out. We needed for him to give our bullpen a rest and he did that. I wasn't comfortable until we got that 27th (last) out."

Darvish, who hurled 127 pitches against Boston two starts ago, said Washington talked with him before sending him back onto the mound in the eighth inning.

"Wash asked me if I could go longer, and he seemed to want me to go longer," Darvish said. "I wanted to go longer. I felt good. And I wanted to help the bullpen.

"After the 100th pitch tonight, I was fired up and I had a lot of gasoline left."