July was full of intrigue for Yu Darvish and Josh Prince.
I was all excited about the potential of Josh Prince setting the single season stolen base record for the Pioneer League. The Pioneer League is a short-season league, playing just 76 games in a year. Despite this, Prince was on pace to steal 55 bases, having pinched 26 in 36 games. The record is 60, set by Tom Goodwin of the Great Falls Dodgers who stole 60 bases in 63 games. Prince had a shot, especially if he would have been able to get another high steal game like he did at the start of the season.
Alas, the chance is now zero. That's a good thing for Prince, though, as he was promoted to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He has three steals in four games there and also has hit a pair of doubles. He's one step closer to reaching the majors. Prince has a shot at maintaining his league lead in steals in the Pioneer League, though. Casper's Avery Barnes is his biggest threat.
On the other side of the world, Yu Darvish had an episode which left me wondering what the equivalent event would be here and how Bud Selig would handle it. We'll get to that as we continue the game by game accounting:
Rakuten manages nine hits but can plate just a single run in seven innings against Darvish. One walk and seven strikeouts issued as Darvish gets a no-decision:
112 IP, 70 H, 22 BB, 103 K, 10-2, 1.13 ERA
Darvish has his worst start of the year against the Seibu Lions. In seven innings he again gives up nine hits but two of them are home runs, doubling his season total for home runs allowed. He limits the damage to four runs but still takes the loss.
119 IP, 79 H, 24 BB, 108 K, 10-3, 1.36 ERA
Is Darvish tiring? Is something wrong? Nah. Just human. Throws a complete game next time out. A four-hitter, striking out nine. He does give up another homer, though, as his only run surrendered.
128 IP, 83 H, 25 BB, 117 K, 11-3, 1.34 ERA
Three straight games with a home run allowed? Darvish enters the All-Star Break with another complete game, this time allowing two hits, one a homer, as Nippon beats Lotte, 2-1.
137 IP, 85 H, 29 BB, 123 K, 12-3, 1.31 ERA
Here's where the drama starts. Two days later, Darvish gets the start for the first All-Star game (the All-Star series is a best of three games in Japan). This surprised me a bit. Japanese starters tend to throw just one game a week so they get six days rest typically. Darvish is going again after one day? Granted, it's an All-Star Game and he wasn't going to pitch much anyway. I still thought it was an unusual decision.
Darvish did not pitch much anyway as he took a line drive off of his pitching shoulder and left the game after one inning.
Can you imagine the response here in the States if such a thing were to happen. We no longer have the skills competition before the All-Star game because Barry Larkin injured his knee during one in the 1980's. The All-Star game decides home field for the World Series now because we had a tie game one year. If a pitcher of Darvish's ability and popularity were to take a line drive off the shoulder in an All-Star Game!!!, I think that either the game would cease to be held or that pitchers would have to pitch behind batting practice screens and bunts would be disallowed. Probably the latter since no one bunts anyway in an All-Star game and MLB wouldn't want to lose the revenue.
Darvish is tough. His next start was pushed back a day to help him recover from the bruise and he threw another dandy to close out the month. Served up yet another home run but added nine strikeouts in eight innings.
145 IP, 90 H, 31 BB, 132 K, 13-3, 1.30 ERA
Darvish continues to be the best pitcher in Japan right now even with a month that contained five home runs allowed and his worst start.