ARLINGTON, Texas — Ichiro Suzuki was impressed by Yu Darvish, even after the Japanese ace struggled early in his debut for the Texas Rangers.
Suzuki and the Seattle Mariners jumped out to a quick four-run lead before Darvish settled down and got some help from his powerful offense as the Rangers went on for an 11-5 victory Monday night.
“My impression was good, not his pitching but just in general after he was taken out of the game, you saw the crowd did a standing ovation and he didn’t tip his cap,” Suzuki said. “He wasn’t very happy or satisfied with his pitching, and that shows pride. That’s a good mentality, that’s what I liked about him.”
After giving up four runs while throwing 42 pitches in the first inning, then allowing another run in the second, Darvish (1-0) later retired 10 in a row while pitching into the sixth.
Darvish walked leadoff hitter Chone Figgins on four pitches to start the game before striking out Dustin Ackley.
Suzuki then blooped a single just over third base, and Justin Smoak lined a single to right before Kyle Seager’s two-run single. Another walk and an RBI single by Miguel Olivo reloaded the bases before Munenori Kawasaki, an eight-time All-Star in Japan who was the only Mariner to previously face Darvish, walked on four pitches and put Seattle up 4-0.
There was also a wild pitch thrown so hard that it ricocheted off the brick backstop right back to Napoli.
And the Mariners still couldn’t beat him after jumping out to a 4-0 lead before Texas even batted.
It wasn’t the first time Seattle manager Eric Wedge watched a pitcher give up four first-inning runs and still get a win after avoiding being knocked out of the game early.
“I’m not crazy about it when it’s against us. We were about to that point,” Wedge said. “They’re going to be careful with him and they had somebody up. We were close to getting that done.”
Darvish insisted he had a feeling of calmness when he took the mound for his much-anticipated major league debut. He just had to settle down his big right arm to match how his mind felt.
“Mentally, I was very calm, but my body felt like it wanted to go and go and go,” Darvish said through his translator. “At the beginning of the game, my mind and my body kind of weren’t on the same page. … It was pretty much a battle all night. Just knowing my offense, if I could string those zeroes together, they would answer for me.”
Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer in the third for Texas to tie the game at 5, then Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton both went deep in the fourth to give Darvish an 8-5 lead. Ian Kinsler added a three-run blast in the eighth.
Darvish was Japan’s top pitcher before the Rangers committed more than $107 million to acquire him, including his guaranteed $56 million, six-year contract. Despite the early struggles in his first start, the 25-year-old right-hander is undefeated in Texas.
“Going through warmups and everything, he felt fine,” said catcher Mike Napoli, sporting a “Yu is my Homeboy” T-shirt after the game. “He got out there and was over-amped. I don’t think he was scared, he was excited to be out there.”
When manager Ron Washington replaced Darvish with Alexi Ogando — who struck out Smoak to end that inning — Darvish got a loud ovation from the crowd that was also chanting “Yuuuuuuu!” as he walked to the dugout without acknowledging the cheers.
Darvish, who struck out five and walked four while throwing 59 of 110 pitches for strikes, called it moving to get that kind of reaction after his tough performance. He said he wasn’t aware it was customary to tip his cap to the crowd.
“I guess we’ll tell him,” Napoli said with a smile.
Seattle starter Hector Noesi (0-1) only made it into the fourth. The right-hander was gone after Napoli drew a leadoff walk and Moreland followed by pulling a 382-foot homer down the right-field line for a 7-5 lead.
Noesi struck out three and walked three and gave up six hits in his three-plus innings.
Michael Young and Cruz had consecutive two-out RBI singles in the first off Noesi, but Seattle got another run in the second when Suzuki doubled and scored on a double by Seager.
Erasmo Ramirez made his major league debut with three innings after he replaced Noesi. Ramirez allowed only one run, on Hamilton’s homer to center.
Notes: Ogando, a 13-game winner and All-Star as a starter last season, went 1 1-3 innings. He has appeared in three of four games, with 3 1-3 scoreless innings. … Neftali Feliz, the Rangers’ closer-turned-starter, makes his first start Tuesday night against Seattle. He faces right-hander Blake Beaven, the former top prospect for the Rangers who was traded to Seattle two seasons ago in the Cliff Lee deal.