OAKLAND Yu Darvish looks like a movie star. He absolutely does. He has classic, almost feminine features. His stylishly long dark hair, which is lightened by the blazing Texas sun or a bottle of the fake stuff, frames his face perfectly, curling only at the edges.
He has size (6-foot-5) and talent and a charisma that translates from Japanese to English before his interpreter utters a word. Usually, he has an explosive fastball and command of four pitches, which is why he has become one of baseball's early season sensations.
"I don't know what pitch he doesn't have," said A's outfielder Coco Crisp. "Maybe it's a spitball or something like that?"
Fortunately for the A's, Darvish didn't have much of anything for very long Thursday. Fastball, cutter, slider, changeup nothing seemed to work. Maybe he should have tried that spitball Crisp was talking about. Against an A's club that appears to be emerging from a frightening and prolonged funk, the dynamic Texas Rangers rookie was the main actor in an utterly forgettable film.
In the worst outing of his major league career and a 7-1 victory by the A's Darvish didn't last six innings. He gave up six runs, six hits and six walks. He tagged Kurt Suzuki under the left armpit with a 92 mph fastball, and, most significantly, was clubbed by the light-hitting Crisp.
One home run. One triple. Four RBIs.
"I don't know whether he was slumping or not, but if you want my opinion, just looking at today, he's an incredibly good hitter," Darvish said later through an interpreter, with a slight smile. "He looked like our (Josh) Hamilton today."
It could have been worse. Darvish got only a brief taste of the A's best hitter. After singling in the first inning, Yoenis Cespedes stumbled as he ran toward third base on Seth Smith's looping line drive, straining his left hamstring and immediately leaving the game.
While Cespedes is unavailable tonight and officially listed as day to day, Darvish unofficially is listed as struggling.
He has lost four consecutive road starts, including his previous one in Anaheim. But forget the Angels. These were the A's, the club that ranks last in the majors in batting and slugging percentage, and second-to-last in on-base percentage.
They can pitch, though. They can really do that. Brandon McCarthy became the latest starter to throw a gem; he allowed only three hits and one run, struck out five, and was in control throughout his seven innings.
Darvish, by contrast, was in trouble from the opening pitch, and particularly erratic in the fourth. Already trailing 2-1, he walked Brandon Inge, Brandon Moss and Jemile Weeks, and hit Suzuki with that high fastball. Crisp's triple capped the inning, extending the Rangers' deficit to 6-1.
"This experience is something he has to go through," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "He has to understand that you can't put people on the bag (by issuing walks) over here. We're not going to turn our backs on him, and we're certainly not going to let him go into the tank."
It's early. It's also expensive. The Rangers invested six years and $108 million in the 25-year-old Darvish, the son of an Iranian father and Japanese mother. His physical gifts are readily apparent. Though he has slender, almost delicate hands traits more common to artists than overpowering athletes his muscular frame makes him appear much bigger than 6-5. His delivery is also strikingly unique; he pitches almost exclusively from the stretch.
"Early on we tried to get him to go to the windup," said Washington. "He used it. He had that over-the-head motion, then turned, and would (hesitate) and then go, more like you see from (Japanese) pitchers. But he wasn't comfortable with it, so he went back to what he was doing."
There have been other adjustments. Starting pitchers in Japan get more rest between starts. The texture and thus the feel of the baseball is different. The language barrier is another difference, though even after a tough outing, Darvish had little trouble communicating.
There was that smile, that grin he flashed when asked about Crisp.
"He's going to be fine," Washington added. "He'll figure it out."