SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) – Milwaukee’s Norichika Aoki upstaged fellow Japanese newcomer Yu Darvish on Monday afternoon.
Aoki had three hits, including a triple, and drove in three runs Monday as the Brewers rallied past the Texas Rangers 5-3.
Aoki hit an RBI single in the second off Darvish, then tied the game at 3 in the sixth when he tripled to score Alex Gonzalez and George Kottaras. Aoki came home on Cesar Izturis’ squeeze bunt.
Coming in, Aoki had been 4 for 28 during spring training.
“He needed to have that game just so he could get back on track,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “I know he’s been pressing and has been trying to do well for us. This has to make him feel good.”
Roenicke told Aoki last week not to put too much pressure on himself.
“It’s just an honor to have a conversation with him,” Aoki said through an interpreter. “Playing in a different environment it helped me relax and calm down.”
Making his third start, Darvish allowed one hit and three walks in four innings with four strikeouts and a hit batter.
Aoki and the Brewers were able to capitalize on Darvish’s inconsistency.
Travis Ishikawa led off the second with a walk, and Darvish hit Jonathan Lucroy in the back with a fastball that appeared to slip out of his hand. Aoki, who said he was 0 for 4 against Darvish in Japan, followed with a single that pulled the Brewers to 2-1.
Aoki singled again in the fifth, and he tripled in the sixth against Joe Nathan.
“He’s a great hitter,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “He’s always been a great hitter. The Brewers have a lot of tough hittersm and he seems to be just like one of them.”
Darvish, who retired the side in order in the first and third, walked a pair of hitters in the fourth. He escaped trouble when he induced Lucroy into an broken-bat, inning-ending double play on a two-seam fastball inside.
“A few weeks ago, I couldn’t even throw that for a strike,” Darvish said. “Today, throwing that pitch in that situation and getting a ground ball when I needed one was a relief.”
Fastball command remained an issue for Darvish, who threw only 39 of 70 pitches for strikes.
“Every spring I’m usually not sharp,” Darvish said. “I think my situation right now at this time, I don’t see much difference from previous springs. The way my body’s working and my delivery, I’m not able to repeat right now. These are the things I’m going to work on polishing.”
Rickie Weeks struck out twice against Darvish.
“I’m not the guy to talk to for all this praise, but he’s a great pitcher,” Weeks said.
Darvish is slated to pitch in an intrasquad game Sunday rather than travel to Tempe to face the Los Angeles Angels.
Brewers starter Randy Wolf gave up three runs, 10 hits and two walks in five innings with four strikeouts.
Elvis Andrus had three hits, including two off Wolf. Kentrail Davis homered for Milwaukee.
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