ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Yu Darvish can throw fastballs by hitters. He can also freeze them with the slow-breaking curve.
Darvish surpassed 200 strikeouts in his rookie season while getting his 15th victory for the AL West-leading Texas Rangers in a 9-3 win against the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
"Instead of trying to incorporate all the weapons he has, he's coming out of the bullpen recognizing what's working and he's using them," manager Ron Washington said. "One time it's his slider, one time it's his four-seamer. Today, it was his cutter ... and the slow breaking ball."
Darvish (15-9) struck out nine in seven innings. The 6-foot-5 right-hander from Japan often complemented his mid-90s fastball with a breaking pitch about 30 mph slower.
"It's a tough pitch, something you're not used to," Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager said. "It definitely throws your timing off a little bit. He located really well with it. When he threw them, he threw it with a purpose."
Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton homered for the Rangers against Hisashi Iwakuma (6-5), like Darvish a former Pacific League MVP in Japan and now a rookie in the major leagues.
Hamilton also had an RBI double in the Rangers' seven-run eighth off four relievers. He leads the majors with 42 homers and 123 RBIs.
Texas maintained a three-game division lead over Oakland, which beat Baltimore 3-2 for its seventh win in eight games. The Rangers and Athletics will play seven times over the last 10 games of the regular season.
Darvish retired 12 of his last 13 batters, striking out seven in that stretch. He allowed only two hits and walked two while throwing 79 of his 110 pitches for strikes.
Darvish made his major league debut against the Mariners five months ago, a game he won after giving up four runs in the first inning. He had a 9.00 ERA in three previous starts against them.
"Just the difference between throwing against them tonight and my previous outings against them, I think it's just throwing strikes," Darvish said through his translator. "Or more precisely not feeling like I have to throw a strike."
It was Darvish's third consecutive start of at least seven innings while allowing three hits or less. The only other Rangers pitcher to ever do that was Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, now the team president. He did it in 1990.
With 205 strikeouts, Darvish is the first major league rookie over 200 since Daisuke Matsuzaka struck out 201 batters for Boston in 2007. He is the 16th rookie, sixth in the American League, with 200 strikeouts.
It was only the eighth time two Japanese starters pitched against other in the majors, but Darvish and Iwakuma faced each other six times in Japan. Darvish last season threw a complete game for Hokkaido in a 2-0 win over Rakuten and Iwakuma, who worked 8 2-3 innings in that game.