For the finale of the longest road trip of their season, teetering on the edge of once again falling below .500, the Rangers on Sunday put together a lineup that included:

A leadoff man with a broken face subbing for a guy with a sore ankle who had been scheduled to sub for the sore-ankled Shin-Soo Choo.
A vertically-challenged first baseman who hadn’t played the position at least since coach-pitch and maybe not that recently. Oh, and they batted him fifth.

And they still won.

This is what Yu Darvish wills them to do these days. With their offensive potential drastically reduced even from their reduced adjusted daily potential, the Rangers demanded shutout innings from Darvish. And, as he does whenever his neck isn’t too creaky, Darvish delivered in a 2-0 win over Washington.

The win gave the Rangers a 7-4 road trip after finding out that Prince Fielder was done for the season. It pushed them back over .500 for the year at 29-28. And they were able to do it while giving Choo and Mitch Moreland an extra day off to rest sore ankles and, in the case of Moreland, a sore back.

“Today was about pitching, and Yu did that for us,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “That team for two days swung the bats at will, and we needed to slow them down. He slowed them down. We needed one run. We got it first and were able to hold on.”

Now that he seems to have found a feng shui between his fastball and his wide array of off-speed and breaking pitches, Darvish is making a habit of absolutely smothering opponents to allow the diluted Rangers’ offense maximum opportunity for victory.

Sunday marked the seventh time this season he has started after a Rangers loss. The Rangers are 5-2 in those games. In the only two losses, the Rangers have been shutout. Darvish has a 2.31 ERA in those games.

The secret to Darvish unlocking his full potential has been his better understanding of using the fastball as a weapon. On Sunday, he buzzed through the Washington lineup mostly with fastballs on the first trip through the order. In the second and third trip, he mixed in his slider and his cut fastball. The cutter was particularly sharp Sunday, getting him strikeouts of Adam LaRoche with a runner at third base to end the third and of Wilson Ramos with runners on the corners for the second out of the sixth. Both strikeouts came in what was still a scoreless game at the moment.