ANAHEIM -- Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish had his best slider going on Thursday afternoon at Angel Stadium. Once he was able to find the strike zone with it, the Angels were in deep trouble.
They have seen that before.
Darvish threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just five hits and two walks in the Rangers' 8-3 victory. The Rangers were within one out of a shutout when Danny Espinosa hit a three-run home run off Mike Hauschild in the ninth.
That doesn't diminish Darvish's performance. He struck out 10, a sign that the slider was working well. He struck out just nine in 12 1/3 innings over his first two starts while unable to get swings and misses with the slider.
"I had a sharp, good slider today," Darvish said. "It was breaking a lot early, I had to just aim it better."
Darvish had trouble getting the slider over early, giving up two singles and two walks over the first three innings. Then he made the necessary adjustments and started throwing strikes.
"Early on, he was overthrowing it just a touch," manager Jeff Banister said. "He was trying to make the slider better than it needed to be. He was able to back off. His slider is quality in the strike zone. Once he was able to get it in the strike zone, then he was able to move it off the strike zone and get them to chase.
On Thursday, the slider was a swing-and-miss pitch for the first time this year. He got five whiffs on 26 sliders, compared to just three on 51 over his first two starts.
"More so, he had the inside fastball and that gave him room across the plate and he was able to expand the zone off the slider," Banister said.
This was the 29th time in 103 Major League starts that Darvish has struck out 10 or more batters in a game. Nolan Ryan had 34 such games for the Rangers in 129 starts in 1989-93.
Darvish is now 8-2 with a 3.48 ERA in 14 career starts against the Angels. That's his most wins against any one opponent.
"He finished strong," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He got stronger as the game went on. We didn't get too many good looks at him after the first couple innings. He's proven that. When he's on his game, you go up there waiting for a mistake."
Darvish's outing comes at a time when the Rangers are short in the bullpen, but that was something the Rangers didn't have to worry about on Thursday. They jumped to a 5-0 lead after three innings against opposing starter Ricky Nolasco, and Darvish didn't let the Angels get back in the game. He left after 103 pitches and let Hauschild finish the game.
"It's tough to do that to our offense, to give up so many runs early against a guy like Darvish," Nolasco said. "It just puts us in a really bad spot."