ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — John Jaso singled on the second pitch from Yu Darvish in the Japanese right-hander’s first start in the majors in almost 22 months.
Pittsburgh’s leadoff hitter struck out swinging the next two times, first on an 82 mph slider and then an 89 mph cutter. Same old Darvish, even a little more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery.
Darvish struck out seven in five strong innings, hitting 98 mph in the first inning and sprinkling in breaking pitches as slow as 70 mph, and the Texas Rangers beat the Pirates 5-2 on Saturday night.
“He’s looking fresh,” Jaso said after Pittsburgh’s five-game winning streak was snapped. “He was doing his normal thing, like where he throws fastball usually the first time through the lineup and then he starts dropping this in, this in and all that stuff. It looks like he’s his normal, dominant self.”
Adrian Beltre had a two-run homer in the first inning off Juan Nicasio (3-3) to become the fourth third baseman with at least 1,500 RBIs, finishing with 1,501.
Mitch Moreland snapped a 1-for-27 skid with a solo home run in the fourth.
The “Yuuu” calls from a sellout crowd started early for Darvish, who allowed three hits and a run with seven strikeouts in five strong innings. He came out after 81 pitches, just shy of the target Texas had for him after five rehab outings this month.
Four Texas relievers allowed four hits and a run with four strikeouts in four innings.
“Physically I felt I could go more innings, but mentally I was like ‘I’m done here,'” Darvish said through an interpreter. “Today I was heating it up pretty good so I felt pretty good.”
Darvish last pitched in the big leagues on Aug. 9, 2014. He missed the rest of that season with right elbow inflammation, and ended up needing ligament reconstruction surgery after his only spring training appearance last year.
After Jaso’s game-opening single, Andrew McCutchen struck out. The Pirates didn’t get another hit until Francisco Cervelli’s sinking liner in front of rookie right fielder Nomar Mazara in the fifth.
No. 9 hitter Cole Figueroa ended Darvish’s shutout bid by pulling a hanging slider into right-center field for a single that scored Cervelli.
Darvish, who is 7-1 with a 1.77 ERA in 10 starts against NL teams, finished his outing with the second swinging strikeout of Jaso. He threw 81 pitches, just shy of the target Texas had for him after five rehab starts this month culminated with an 87-pitch outing.
The last time Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle saw Darvish, Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole outdueled him 1-0 in Arlington in September 2013.
“I think Darvish is going to be OK once he knocks the rust off,” said Hurdle, heavy on the sarcasm. “The film is one thing, but to watch it live is a completely different thing. That’s shutdown stuff.”
Lefty reliever Tony Watson came off the paternity list and pitched a perfect eighth. … Jaso is 10-for-25 (.400) against Darvish, the second-highest average in the majors for anyone with at least 15 plate appearances against him.
Hurdle gave second baseman Josh Harrison the night off after starting him in the series opener. Harrison, who has been battling an illness, came out of Friday’s game in the sixth inning. He didn’t start Thursday but came off the bench.
Pirates: LHP Francisco Liriano (4-3, 4.30) has won his last four starts against the Rangers and is 5-1 with a save and a 2.89 ERA in nine career games against them, most of those with Minnesota. His last appearance against Texas was Sept. 10, 2013.
Rangers: LHP Martin Perez (2-4, 3.13) makes his team-high 11th start and has gone 2-2 with a 2.23 ERA in his past six starts. He threw six shutout innings in a 4-1 win over the Angels in his last start.