The Washington Nationals (27-28) were in for a huge challenge on Sunday afternoon against one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball: Yu Darvish. He worked eight strong innings to help avoid a sweep for the Texas Rangers (29-28), defeating the Nats 2-0.
Things got interesting quickly in the top of the first inning with a brand new instant replay quirk. Rangers right fielder Alex Rios was caught stealing when he slid past second base. At the same time, shortstop Elvis Andrus tried to score from third on the throw. Originally, it was ruled that Rios was out, but the run scored.
With those decisions we had the first dueling challenges of the Nats season. Rangers manager Ron Washington challenged the safe/out call at second base while Matt Williams challenged whether Andrus touched home before Rios was out. Ultimately, Williams was the winning manager on all fronts as Rios was out, and the run did not score. Well, that was a mouthful.
Denard Span recovered quickly from his error in the first inning with a leadoff double in the bottom of the first. He moved to third on an Anthony Rendon grounder but was stranded there. After Darvish struck out five consecutive batters from the first to third innings, Span once again got on base with a single to right field, making him 5-for-6 against him in his career to this point.
All in all, it was an epic pitcher’s duel between Darvish and Roark. Roark was able to go essentially pitch-for-pitch with one of the best pitchers in baseball through six and one-third innings until giving up a solo home run to Leonys Martin, giving the Rangers the 1-0 edge that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Drew Storen had a rare bit of trouble in the eighth inning. He gave up a leadoff single to Daniel Robertson, who then advanced to second on an Andrus sacrifice bunt. After striking out Rios, Adrian Beltre was intentionally walked to face Donnie Murphy. Murphy promptly singled to center, scoring Robertson to make it a 2-0 game.
You can’t be mad at Roark for giving up just one earned run on seven hits and two walks through seven innings, but it’s also hard to blame the Nats offense for having trouble hitting Darvish, who has the second best strikeout rate in baseball behind only Stephen Strasburg. Roark did do an incredible job just to keep the Nats in the game.