By Carter Cromwell
It appears that Yu Darvish and Kenta Maeda can at least occasionally be mere mortals when on the pitching mound.
That had been in question through the first six weeks of the MLB season, as Darvish and Maeda were consistently outstanding. But they were merely pretty darn good in Week 7.
Maeda of the Minnesota Twins went six-plus innings against the Detroit Tigers in his one outing of the week, retiring 18 consecutive batters at one point and inducing 22 swinging strikes – his second-highest total this season.
Unfortunately for him, those 18 straight batters were bookended by a Victor Reyes’ first-inning homer and two runners to open the seventh inning that later scored off reliever Tyler Clippard. The home run was only the eighth Maeda has given up this season. Maeda ended with a no-decision, though the Twins rallied in the ninth to win on run-scoring singles by Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.
Maeda is 4-1 on the season, with a 2.77 earned-run average and 0.72 WHIP.
Darvish of the Chicago Cubs, talked up as a candidate for the National League Cy Young award, made two appearances last week, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals and then losing to the Cincinnati Reds. His performance against the Cardinals was typical of his season thus far – a seven-inning stint in which he gave up just one hit, one run, and no walks while striking out 11 batters to gain the victory.
His outing against the Reds was hardly poor but somewhat atypical. He went six innings and allowed just two hits. However, he walked three batters after giving up only eight bases on balls in his first eight starts of the year. He walked back-to-back hitters in the first inning and then served up a home-run ball to Mike Moustakas that accounted for the Reds’ only runs in a 3-0 win. That was only the fourth home run Darvish has allowed in 56 innings this season.
Darvish is now 7-2 for the season with a 1.77 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP. He has struck out 72 batters in 56 innings.
Elsewhere among the Japanese imports, Seattle Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi broke a streak of poor-to-mediocre performances by going six strong innings in a victory over the Texas Rangers. He allowed only two hits, one run, and walked no one. Overall, he is now 2-2 with a 5.23 ERA.
Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees lost to the Baltimore Orioles, though he didn’t pitch poorly.
In 5.1 innings, he gave up six hits, a walk, and two runs to the Orioles. Baltimore then got three unearned runs off relievers and took a 5-1 victory. Tanaka is 1-2 overall with a 3.38 ERA.
Reliever Shun Yamaguchi of the Toronto Blue Jays got a win in a two-inning stint against the Yankees, though he gave up three hits, a walk, and one earned run. He pitched three innings against Boston in his other appearance of the week, allowing an earned run on four hits. He’s 2-3 for the year with a 3.98 ERA.
Fellow reliever Yoshihisa Hirano of Seattle gave up his first runs of the 2020 campaign after four scoreless appearances, although he got a save against Texas. In six games this season, he is 0-0 with a 4.50 earned-run mark.
On the offensive side, infielder Yoshi Tsutsugo of the Tampa Bay Rays was 3-16 with a home run last week and is batting .190 for the season. Except for a two-day period, Tsutsugo’s average has been under .200 since August 4.
Designated hitter Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels was 4-17 at the plate and is batting .195 overall with a .654 OPS. He’s been under .200 most of the season and continuously since August 18. Since that point, he’s averaged .188.
Outfielder Shogo Akiyama of Cincinnati finally showed some spark, though. He was 6-14 at the plate with five walks. He raised his average to .225, twenty-nine points higher than a week ago, and has hit .353 thus far in September.