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Darvish wins April Pitching Performance award

Rangers phenom takes honors for near-perfect 2013 debut masterpiece

Last summer, Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish received 7.3 million votes and was a wire-to-wire winner in the American League side of the 2012 All-Star Game Final Vote. That online support made him a rookie All-Star with the final roster spot in Kansas City.

Now Darvish has done it again, showing his chops as a global online balloting draw. His near-perfect debut on April 2 at Houston earned 39 percent of your vote to win the season's first Pitching Performance of the Month presented by Head & Shoulders.

Beating out the other three nominees selected by an editorial panel, Darvish was followed by Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals (33 percent), Anibal Sanchez of the Tigers (15 percent) and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers (11 percent). It is especially notable because the choices included a pitcher who smashed an original franchise's all-time single-game strikeout record, as Sanchez whiffed 17 hitters facing an Atlanta club that was red hot at the time.

Darvish retired the first 26 Astros in order during his first 2013 outing and saw his perfect game end on a comebacker from Marwin Gonzalez that went through his legs. Darvish finished with 14 strikeouts, which he matched in his first May start.

The debut outing was part of an overall club strikeout record, too, because by whiffing 46 Astros in that series, Texas became the first team to strike out 43 batters in the first three games of a season.

"I went that far ... I'm satisfied with that," Darvish said after his near-perfecto. "I was relaxed. I wanted to continue what I was doing in Spring Training, but I had a little more emotion."

Darvish finished April with a 5-1 record and a league-best 58 strikeouts. At this pace, it obviously would not be likely he will need to rely upon the Final Vote to get back to the All-Star Game.

The other two candidates besides Darvish and Sanchez were a couple of blankings of Ryan Braun and the Brewers. Wainwright struck out 12 in an April 13 shutout at Milwaukee, and Kershaw struck out the same number over eight scoreless innings of an April 28 win at Dodger Stadium.

This award is all about strikeout magic, part of the ongoing "Season of the #Whiff" campaign. In addition to voting for the monthly award, you can be part of the Season of the #Whiff campaign around the clock. See a whiff, tweet a #Whiff to @HSforMen, and you will have a chance to win cool prizes from your favorite team.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog.

Yu Darvish