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HOU@WSH: Wilk escapes the fourth inning unscathed

DETROIT -- Take whatever side you want in the debate over Yu Darvish's potential after Thursday's 10-3 Tigers loss to the Rangers. On this night, they couldn't figure him out.

But the way the Tigers' ALCS rematch-opening loss unraveled Thursday wasn't about missed opportunities or one game-changing play. This was a long night at the ballpark.

"We've got a good team," manager Jim Leyland said afterward. "We're playing good. We just got the crap beat out of us."

The Tigers had given up 10 hits through four innings, yet just two runs, keeping them close while Darvish settled in. Texas added eight more runs on nine more hits the rest of the way, including a two-run fifth inning on two walks, two infield errors and a sacrifice fly.

Whether or not they felt they had a chance to get hits off Darvish, they had little chance as the game went on.

"There's not a lot of defining moments in a game like this," Leyland said. "We just got beat."

The Tigers had international scouts watching Darvish in Japan, and advance scouting on what the Rangers' newest starter was doing here in the states. Whether he's the best to come out of Japan will be better to discuss in time, but this was by far the best he has looked since coming over.

"He's very good," said Miguel Cabrera, whose 0-for-3 night off Darvish included a flyout to the warning track in right field. "He mixed his pitches very good -- fastball, breaking ball, slider. He did a very good job to stop our offense today."

The Tigers have had their share of offensive struggles over the last week and a half, against a wide variety of starting pitchers, from the Tampa Bay Rays' vaunted rotation to the White Sox's Jake Peavy last weekend to the painfully efficient Bruce Chen. They hadn't seen anybody yet quite like Darvish.

They haven't scored more than three runs off a starter since roughing up Boston's Clay Buchholz on April 8, though those three runs have come in five-inning starts a few times. They weren't going to rough up Darvish the way he pitched them.

Darvish wasn't overpowering, though his fastball was consistently at 94 mph. Nor was he particularly deceptive early on with a heavy dose of fastballs. But after a bout of early-season wildness, he was effective enough to remind people why he had so much promise, all but shutting down one of baseball's most formidable lineups.

"It was the team's first time seeing him and his first time seeing us," Delmon Young said. "He came out, got ahead of guys and then used good breaking balls and good location."

Young's fourth-inning double comprised half the Tigers' hit total over Darvish's 6 1/3 innings, the other being Don Kelly's two-out single in the second inning. Compounded by Prince Fielder's leadoff walk, Young's double also represented the one chance the Tigers had for a real rally off of him.

Darvish put Alex Avila in an 0-2 hole, then used back-to-back breaking balls to send down Avila swinging. Kelly worked a full count, but grounded out on a 93-mph fastball to plate Fielder. Darvish then cranked up the heater to 94-95 on three straight pitches to Jhonny Peralta, who flew out to right.

Three innings later, Darvish ended a seven-pitch battle with Peralta by striking him out on a slider in the dirt for his 121st and final pitch of the night.

"He was throwing the ball OK," second baseman Ramon Santiago said, "but we should've scored more runs. Later, he started mixing up his pitches. Early, he was throwing a lot of fastballs. Later he started throwing a lot of sliders and curveballs. But we should've scored more runs."

The Tigers missed their chance in the fourth, but they still faced a 2-1 deficit. A leadoff walk to Josh Hamilton, the lone left-handed hitter in Texas' lineup, ended Wilk's second Major League start and set up the rest of the night.

Though Cabrera might have been overly ambitious trying to turn his slick grab on Adrian Beltre's grounder into a lead out at second, sailing a throw, the more costly error came when Santiago was caught in between on Nelson Cruz's soft liner.

Santiago charged it, looked to catch it on the fly and possibly double off Michael Young, then stopped too late to avoid the in-between hop and the ball went between his legs.

"I just wanted to make sure I got one out [on the liner]," Santiago said. "The ball stayed down and took a bounce. ... I should've made the play."

Once Texas tacked on five late runs off struggling lefty Daniel Schlereth, there was little to lament. They were best left looking to Friday.

"It was one of those days," Santiago said. "Just have to come back tomorrow ready to play." Comments