The Rangers, 49-52, are 18 games behind the Astros in the American League West and fading in the wild card race. They need to sell at the deadline, so Wednesday night is going to make vending the team's biggest asset more difficult.
Dee Gordon, the Marlins' slap-hitting second baseman, homered on Darvish's first pitch Wednesday. Things got worse, not better, from there. By the time Darvish exited with two outs in the fourth inning, he'd given up a career-high 10 runs on nine hits and two walks. While one start won't completely dissuade potential trading partners like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who're desperate to add starting pitching in the wake of Clayton Kershaw's latest back injury, Darvish's capitulation to the Marlins is sure to slow them down a little bit.
Wednesday's start showed the good and the bad that come with Darvish, who remains one of the best starters ever to pitch for the Rangers. He struck out five in less than four innings of work, including a first-inning working over of Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, but he gave up the inexplicable home run to Gordon. In Darvish's final inning, the fourth, he left a slider in the middle of the plate to Ichiro Suzuki, giving up a run-scoring ground-rule double that keyed what ended up being a nine-run inning. The velocity and stuff that make Darvish special were there, but so were the command issues that plague the pitcher when he struggles.
During his six seasons with the Rangers — five if you discount 2015, during which he didn't throw a pitch because he had Tommy John surgery — Darvish has been worth every penny of the more than $100 million the Rangers spent to acquire him after the 2011 season. He's also been a controversial figure for fans and media that cover the team. Darvish, the narrative that built up around him went, is too focused on striking guys out to work deep in games, lacking the will to win that makes good pitchers great.
Those arguments ignored the fact that Darvish, given the current league environment, does pitch deep in games, averaging more than six innings per start in 2017. He's also been given abysmal run support, at least this season, with the Rangers averaging less than four runs per game during Darvish's starts.
If Darvish gets moved before Monday's deadline — center fielder Alex Verdugo is the guy you want the Rangers to get back from the Dodgers if Darvish heads to LA — he'll be remember for being a must-watch phenomenon whenever he pitched. During the dog days of the summers he's spent in Arlington, "Darvish Days" have always come as welcome respites. Nights like April 2, 2013, when Darvish retired the first 26 Astros batters he faced, including 14 strikeouts, before seeing his perfect game broken up by Marwin Gonzalez in the ninth inning, will forever be part of Darvish's mystique. But so will his awful start against the Blue Jays in the 2016 playoffs, when he tied a major-league record by giving up four home runs in a single postseason game. Wednesday night, too, will part of his legacy, for the role it will play in Daniels' deadline negotiations.