OAKLAND – For a while it appeared Yu Darvish might be done in once again by his Oakland Coliseum demons.
The A’s had the Texas Rangers ace reeling Monday night but they couldn’t deliver the knockout blow. The end result, a 4-3 defeat to their toughest American League West rival, isn’t so damaging in and of itself.
Perhaps the biggest loss on this night was letting Darvish exit the game with his confidence intact. The right-hander came in having lost six consecutive starts against Oakland. In two previous starts at the Coliseum, Darvish was tagged for 11 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings.
The A’s put three runs on the board in the second to take a 3-1 lead, and they ran Darvish’s pitch count up to 91 after four innings. They could smell blood in the water, but three different innings ended with a runner stranded at third base, and Darvish heading back to the dugout having avoided disaster.
“He’s a good pitcher right there, he beared down on us,” A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “I came up with the bases loaded one time, and he threw a pretty good slider for strike three. The guy’s good. He’s not just your run-of-the-mill guy.”
No doubt Darvish had been terrific leading up to Monday, surrendering just two earned runs over his first three starts. After this one, however, Darvish sounded like a man who had just conquered an important individual challenge.
“I know I haven't pitched well in this stadium,” Darvish told Rangers reporters. “Compared to last year, I think I've matured mentally to battle teams like that. I think that I won't get frustrated or irritated, and I will focus on the batter in front of me.”
It’s only April, and there’s no use spending too much time in hindsight. But these teams will square off six times over the next 10 days. And hanging another ‘L’ on Darvish in the opening matchup could have been a nice psychological blow for the A’s to deal the Rangers and their ace.
Monday’s offensive performance – 11 men left on base, a 1-for-10 performance with runners in scoring position – had the feel of Saturday’s effort against Houston. Except in that one, the A’s rallied and pulled out a victory in the ninth inning to erase their earlier shortcomings.
No such luck Monday. Now the A’s will rely on Tommy Milone, their No. 5 starter, to deliver a better outing than the one they got from Dan Straily in the series opener.
Straily gave up three runs in five innings. He wasn’t terrible, but he also couldn’t slam the door on a two-out Texas rally in the fifth that pulled the Rangers into a 3-3 tie. The right-hander, who took positive strides last season as a rookie, carries a 5.40 ERA and has allowed five home runs in four starts.
He was mad at himself Monday for falling behind in counts and leaving himself a hole to dig out of.
“My first-pitch command was just terrible tonight, and that’s something you can’t have out there,” Straily said.
Center fielder Coco Crisp’s condition will be worth monitoring Tuesday. He banged up his ribs making a diving attempt at Leonys Martin’s double in the sixth.
“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s the second time he’s dove and nicked that area up a little bit.”
The A’s will also look to leave in the rearview mirror an offensive performance that left something to be desired.
“The goal is to get guys on base, and we were able to do that,” Donaldson said. “More times than not I feel like we’re gonna come through in that situation.”