"I felt as strong as I have after coming back from Tommy John surgery," Darvish said.
The numbers back that up as Darvish held the Royals to two runs on five hits and a walk. He struck out eight and finished with 113 pitches.
This was the first time Darvish has pitched eight innings since June 28, 2014, and the first time he has thrown 113 pitches since Aug. 9 of that season. All of that happened before his 14-month absence because of Tommy John surgery on March 17, 2015.
"I felt like I could go more," Darvish said. "I wanted to show them I can go and be durable and could pitch."
He did. According to Statcast™, Darvish threw strikes on 79 of 113 pitches. That's 69.9 percent, the ninth best among his 105 career starts. Seven of the previous eight came before the surgery.
"He was phenomenal today," pitching coach Doug Brocail said. "There were no signs that he showed any fatigue whatsoever. In all of the games he's pitched, he's shown no fatigue. So we know the arm's healthy. We know he's capable of throwing 100-plus pitches every time out. The score is going to dictate that. When we can use the bullpen and keep him fresh, I don't want to extend."
Darvish's fastball averaged at 94.8 mph, up from 94.1 for the season and 93.7 last year. His 94-mph sinker was also up slightly over his season average of 93.7.
"He was extremely sharp," manager Jeff Banister said. "He seemed to get stronger as the game went on. The slider played well today and I think the changeup played well for him, but I think as you saw the game go on, the addition of the velocity on the fastball was there. I think at some point, he was up to 97, but really emptied the tank there in the eighth with a series of 95 mile per hour boring fastballs."
What Darvish did exceptionally well is pitch with a lead. He gave up back-to-back home runs to Mike Moustakas and Jorge Bonifacio in the third that gave the Royals a 2-1 lead. But the Rangers manufactured two runs in the fourth and Darvish took it from there.
Darvish needed only 11 pitches to set down the Royals in order in the fifth, executing perfectly the shutdown inning that often eludes him. He followed that with three more scoreless innings, allowing just one hit.
"That's Yu Darvish," Banister said. "I know that Yu is as competitive as anybody else, and I think he went out there on a mission today to throw the ball well. That one inning got a little sideways, but after he gave up the two home runs there early ... really, that's when he put the throttle down."