Here at Bucs Dugout, we cover the Pirates, which means that when one of us recaps a game, we watch it with the Pirates in mind. The Pirates are the protagonists, their opponents the antagonists. For many years of Bucs Dugout's existence, this was a weird way to look at things, because a fan of any other team who happened to watch the Pirates play a baseball game would most likely have found the other team more interesting. The Pirates were the Washington Generals, and even some relatively anonymous opponent was the Globetrotters, almost by default.
That has changed in recent years, and we're all grateful. But there are days when the Pirates don't feel like the stars of the game they're playing, and tonight was one of those. Tonight the star was Yu Darvish, who made his first appearance since 2014 and emerged from the wilderness of UCL damage looking no worse for wear.
Darvish was one of the game's best pitchers in his first few years in the league, and tonight's performance strongly suggests he has a chance to reclaim that status. He dominated the Bucs over five innings, striking out seven and walking one. He threw in the mid-90s and exhibited fine command. He made extensive use of his vicious slider and more judicious use of his sloooooowww curveball. The Pirates could do little against Darvish, and the Rangers faithful, energized by his return, were fully behind him. The game reminded me of Stephen Strasburg's MLB debut against the Pirates in 2010, during the Generals days -- Darvish was terrific, and the excitement in the stands was palpable and understandable. Good for him, and good for the Rangers. This game was about them, not the Pirates.
Since this is a Pirates blog, though, a few notes. Juan Nicasio had a miserably long first inning, and Darvish aside, most of the Bucs' problems stemmed from that. The Rangers scored three runs, two of them coming on a homer by Adrian Beltre in a nine-pitch at-bat. Nicasio got the next batter, Nomar Mazara, to line out, but it took 11 pitches to do so, and Nicasio took 36 to get through the inning.
He was good enough after that, giving up only a solo homer to Mitch Moreland in the fourth, but his high pitch count drove him from the game before the fifth was over. John Jaso managed two singles, and Cole Figueroa got a rare start and had a nice game, getting a single, a walk and a stolen base while also recording a nice defensive play at second. The Bucs even managed to mount a mini-rally against Matt Bush in the eighth, though. They left two men on, though, and with Darvish dealing, that was one of the few chances the Bucs were going to get.