TORONTO — Yu Darvish acknowledged it felt strange to face the Blue Jays. That didn’t stop him from shutting down their lineup.
Darvish won his third straight start, Mitch Moreland and Craig Gentry homered and the Texas Rangers beat Toronto, 4-1, on Monday night.
Pitching against a Blue Jays team that reportedly pursued him when his rights went up for auction last December made Darvish (4-0) a little uneasy.
“Honestly, it was kind of an awkward feeling because rumor has it that this was a team that might have posted for me and there was some chance that I might have played for this team,” Darvish said through a translator. “Facing the Blue Jays, they could have been my teammates.”
Toronto might have wished that itself after scratching out just one run and four hits in seven innings against the Japanese sensation, the first starter in Rangers history to win four of his first five games.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell said Darvish was “outstanding” and “as good as advertised,” while Rangers manager Ron Washington called him “electric.”
“He had good stuff,” Washington said. “Once again, the most impressive thing about him was when he got people on the bag, he made pitches. That’s what good pitchers do.”
Darvish allowed a home run for the first time but remained unbeaten in five major league starts. He walked two and struck out nine.
“I don’t expect him to go 32-0,” Washington said, “but the thing about him is he will keep us in ballgames, and that’s what we want.”
In winning his past three starts, Darvish has allowed just two earned runs over 212/3 innings against Detroit, the New York Yankees and Toronto.
“I’m very aware that all these hitters are seeing me for the first time,” Darvish said. “It’s only April. So I’m not thinking about how I did this month or being satisfied. Right now all I’m thinking about is preparing well for the next start.”
American League West-leading Texas won for the 17th time in April, matching the 1989 team for second-most victories in the season’s opening month. The Rangers won a record 18 April games in 1998.
Texas slugger Josh Hamilton was held out of the lineup with a sore back. Hamilton, who leads the AL with nine home runs and 25 RBI, left Sunday’s loss to Tampa Bay in the third inning with back spasms.