While Yu Darvish opened his MLB career with a win over the Mariners last night, that was more the product of Texas teeing off on Hector Noesi than the $112 million man's great outing. Darvish allowed five runs in 5.2 innings, surrendering eight hits while striking out five batters and walking four.
The matchup eagerly anticipated by seamheads ten time zones apart was Darvish vs. Ichiro. The first tilt between the former Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters ace and Sawamura winner and the erstwhile Orix BlueWave and three-time Pacific League MVP went in Ichiro's favor. Here's a quick look at how Ichiro went 3-for-4 against the latest Japanese star to make the jump to MLB.
Darvish started Ichiro off with a 92 mph cutter, which was generously called a ball. Ichiro then fouled off a 95 mph four-seamer thrown up and away, took a 94 mph four-seamer inside for a ball and fouled off two more 94 mph four-seamers. With a 2-2 count, Darvish reared back, fired a 96 mph four-seamer and missed over the heart of the plate. Ichiro lined the pitch into left field for a single.
Darvish fell behind Ichiro again by missing way outside with a 93 mph two-seamer and then just missing low and inside with a 92 mph four-seamer. Down 2-0, Darvish left another four-seamer over the middle of the plate that Ichiro clubbed over right fielder Nelson Cruz's head for a double.
In the fourth, Darvish yet again got behind in the count by narrowly missing low and inside with an 80 mph slider and then well outside with a 92 mph four-seamer. Ichiro fouled off a 92 mph four-seamer on the outer third of the plate and took a 93 mph four-seamer low and inside to make it a 3-1 count. Darvish made one of his best pitches of the night, hitting the black with a 93 mph four-seamer thrown away that produced a ground out.
Darvish tried to stay away from Ichiro in their final battle. Ichiro took a 93 mph four-seamer outside for a ball, poked a 92 mph four-seamer foul that was way outside, and then took an 82 mph slider in the dirt to work a 2-1 count. Darvish then tried to hit the outside corner again, but the pitch was high and Ichiro singled to center field.
Overall, 15 of the 18 pitches Darvish threw to Ichiro were fastballs. Darvish fell behind in the count in each AB, and poor fastball command led to three base knocks. At least until the NPB stars match up again, Ichiro has bragging rights.