May 31, 2014, 6:08 AM EDT
The Nationals have had no problem scoring runs against the Texas Rangers so far in their interleague series at Nats Park. Through two games, they’ve scored a combined 19 runs while holding the Rangers to a total of four.
With a series win in hand, now comes the hard part: solving Yu Darvish. The Rangers’ ace is again rolling through major league lineups, holding a 2.35 ERA through nine starts, fourth-best in the American League.
Darvish is holding opponents to a .215 average and has 71 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings. Through nine outings, only one of his games has not resulted in a quality start.
Darvish has established himself as a true ace with a 3.21 ERA through two-plus seasons in Texas. Now the Nationals get to face the two-time All-Star who finished second in AL Cy Young voting last season.
Though that sounds like a tall task for a team that had been struggling offensively up until two days ago, manager Matt Williams hopes the Nats can keep it simple on Sunday afternoon.
“Once the pitcher releases the ball, it’s not about you and the pitcher anymore, it’s about you and the ball,” he said. “You always have to remember that we have true authority as soon as it’s released. You can choose whether to swing or not and what we do with that pitch.”
After channeling his inner-Phil Jackson, Williams broke down why Darvish is so effective.
“True aces have really good pitches and Darvish is one of the best at it. A number of different pitches moving a number of different ways, and then a 97 mile per hour fastball when he wants it,” he said. “There are so many pitches: fastball, sinking fastball, four-seam fastball, slider, curve, change; changing speeds on his curveball.”
Williams was a pretty decent hitter himself in his day. He won four Silver Sluggers and made five All-Star teams, mostly because of his ability to hit. He shared what his approach would be against Darvish, if he were still an active player.
“For me, it would be to choose a side of the plate as opposed to a pitch,” he said. “I would go ‘well, there’s six of them.’ Let’s not try to hit all six, let’s just pick a side of the plate that I’m going to attack today. Regardless of what pitch it is. You get a ball the other away, or you get a ball in, and attack that way. He has so many pitches that you can’t just try to follow all of them. I think that would be my approach. Everybody’s different, but I would try to pick one side of the plate and attack that side, see what we can do.”
Only one player on the Nats’ roster has faced Darvish in their career. That was Denard Span who is somehow 3-for-4 off of him with two doubles and an RBI.
The Nationals will face Darvish (4-2, 2.35) in a 1:35 p.m. start on Sunday. Tanner Roark (3-3, 3.47) will take the mound for the Nats against the team that drafted him back in 2008 in the 25th round of the MLB Draft.
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