SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Colorado Rockies lineup on Friday night included Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton and Jason Giambi. Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish wasn't quite sure what he was up against, but it was the best lineup he has faced this spring."I didn't know that much except my translator (Joe Furukawa) telling me what a great player Troy Tulowitzki is," Darvish said afterward. "But it might be good that I didn't know." Darvish acquitted himself well, allowing three runs over six innings in the Rangers 5-3 victory at Salt River Fields. He gave up six hits and a walk while striking out 11. He threw 98 pitches and finished the Cactus League with a 3.60 ERA in four outings. Opponents are hitting .226 off him. "I think it's slowly coming together," Darvish said. "I'm making better pitchers and more of them. I just need more of game pitching ... pitching to situations. I think I can improve upon that in each situation."
Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton left the game after seven innings with a tight groin muscle but it is not expected to be anything serious."He said it was tight so I told him to get out of here," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. Everybody instead was talking about Darvish after the game and those that watched him were impressed. The cramped center-field clubhouse that served as the latest venue for Darvish's postgame press conference rang with praises for his work. "I thought it was really good actually," catcher Mike Napoli said. "He had good stuff, it impressed me. It's fun to work with him. You hear all the hype of him coming over from Japan and it is impressive what he can do with the baseball." "I thought he did a great job," Washington said. "He went through some pretty good hitters. Each time he has taken the ball he has gotten better. That's what the progression of Spring Training is all about. Today he faced a big challenge. That's a very good hitting team up there and he kept us in the ballgame." Gonzalez and Tulowitzki were a combined 0-for-6 with six strikeouts against Darvish, while Helton and Giambi were a combined 5-for-6 with two doubles and a home run. "It obviously had a big-time feel of a Major League game tonight and I think it's safe to say that Mr. Darvish comes as advertised, because he was awfully good," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "Tremendous arm speed, a great mix of pitches, pitches to both sides of the plate." Darvish expressed surprise after the game that he struck out 11 batters over six innings. "To me it didn't seem like I had that many strikeouts," Darvish said. "But between the way me and Mike Napoli were working, his great pitch-calling and me being able to pitch comfortably, that led to the strikeouts." Darvish has one more outing on Wednesday against the Double-A Frisco Roughriders. He is expected to throw four innings in that game at the Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco before making his Major League debut on April 9 against the Mariners at the Ballpark in Arlington. Darvish opened the game with a six-pitch walk to Marco Scutaro, but came back to strike out the next three hitters. "His fastball command was pretty good tonight, he had an explosive fastball," Rangers bullpen coach Andy Hawkins said. "His off-speed stuff was outstanding. He went after those guys and did a great job ... no scouting report, never seen them before ... a great job." In the second, Darvish fell behind 2-0 to both Helton and Giambi and it cost him. Helton doubled over left fielder Craig Gentry's head and Giambi smashed a two-run home run to deep right-center field. "Especially that inning, I couldn't throw anything for a strike except the fastball," Darvish said. "I laid it in there and deserved to have it hit for a home run. To give up a home run to Jason Giambi, I'm honored by that." Darvish rallied from that distinguished honor and retired the next eight hitters before Giambi's two-out single in the fourth. The Rockies, with the Rangers leading 4-2, added another run in the sixth before Darvish escaped a bases-loaded jam. Dexter Fowler led off with a single and -- while Darvish struck out Gonzalez and Tulowitzki -- stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. He scored on a two-out single by Helton. Giambi followed with a ground-rule double down the left-field line and Darvish hit Michael Cuddyer to load the bases. But he was able to get out of the inning by getting Jordan Pacheco on a fly to deep center. "The guy can pitch and tonight he showed he had heart," Washington said. "They tried to come back but he was able to bear down and get out of it. I didn't see any fatigue, he still had good velocity. It didn't look like he was taxed." Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers combined for three scoreless innings to give Darvish the victory. Ross pitched two innings and now has a 1.64 ERA as he goes after a job as the Rangers left-handed setup reliever. "Robbie was impressive again," Hawkins said. "He faced seven hitters and jammed five of them. He's got late movement and he's deceptive. He was behind hitters in the first inning but he adjusted in the second. He has been impressive all spring."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.