Darvish K's career-high 15, flirts with no-hitter
Righty gives up first hit in eighth; Rangers extend win streak to eight
HOUSTON -- Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said it was "boring" playing behind pitcher Yu Darvish on Monday.
"It was boring like always," Andrus said. "Every time he pitches, it's boring. No action in the infield, nothing. You get tired of that, watching strikeout after strikeout."
Andrus may have had trouble staying awake on Monday afternoon at Minute Maid Park, but few others did as Darvish once again tried to make history. This time, he didn't get quite as close as he did in April.
Darvish lost his catcher and his perfect game in the sixth inning, and then his no-hitter in the eighth, but he still pitched the Rangers to a 2-1 victory over the Astros on Monday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
Darvish, holding a 2-0 lead, had a no-hitter for 7 1/3 innings before Houston catcher Carlos Corporan hit a first-pitch fastball over the right-field wall. Darvish was trying to throw the sixth no-hitter in Rangers history and the first since Kenny Rogers' perfect game on July 28, 1994.
"I thought it was a good pitch," Darvish said. "I didn't think it would carry, but it was good hitting by him."
In his first start of the season against the Astros, Darvish came up one batter short in his perfect-game bid back in April, retiring the first 26 hitters he faced until he allowed a two-out single to Marwin Gonzalez in the ninth inning. This time, the perfect-game bid ended with two outs in the sixth when he walked Jonathan Villar on a full-count pitch.
"As I think I've said before, a win is a win," Darvish said after the Rangers' eighth straight victory and 13th in their past 14 games. "I was glad I was a big part of this win."
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski was ejected from the game by home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa after the full-count walk to Villar. Pierzynski was upset about a 2-2 pitch that just missed being strike three, then said something else after Darvish walked Villar.
"Pierzynski didn't like the pitch that I [called for a ball]. We had words about the [2-2] pitch," Kulpa said. "And then [Darvish] walked [Villar] on the very next pitch and [Pierzynski] continued to argue on the pitch before. And so he got ejected."
"I obviously thought it was a strike, I was upset we walked the guy, I said a bad word and was ejected," Pierzynski said.
Geovany Soto took over, and Darvish was hardly rattled. Darvish ended up striking out a career-high 15 batters in eight innings for his 12th win before turning it over to Joe Nathan for the ninth. Nathan retired the Astros in order as the Rangers finished 9-1 on their road trip and remain one game ahead of the Athletics in the American League West.
"It's nice, but wish I didn't have to come in the ninth inning," Nathan said. "It's always tough to see someone miss a no-hitter or perfect game like that."
The Rangers gave Darvish a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Astros starter Brett Oberholtzer on two-out doubles by Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre and a single by Pierzynski. Darvish then struck out the side in the bottom of the first inning and -- given what happened in April -- it was almost like the perfect-game watch was on from the beginning.
"I'm still waiting. … I thought today would be the day," Beltre said. "It really looked like he was on his game. It's tough to see him work so hard and not get it."
Beltre had the only "difficult" chance against Darvish up until the walk in the sixth. He had to go to one knee to grab Jake Elmore's smartly hit grounder with one out in the third inning. Beyond that, there were no difficult fielding plays that needed to be made.
"I was locked in," said Darvish, who is 4-1 with a 1.31 ERA in five starts since coming off the disabled list on July 22.
"He used everything today," manager Ron Washington said. "Slider. Curveball. Cutter. Fastball. Moved it around. He kept 'em off balance. When they were looking for breaking balls, he was throwing fastballs and cutters. When they were looking for fastballs and cutters, he was throwing breaking balls. He was in sync with A.J. and continued to get in sync with Soto. It was a tremendous day."
The 15 strikeouts gave Darvish 207 for the season in 23 starts. Darvish tied Nolan Ryan's club record for fewest starts needed to record 200 strikeouts in a season. Ryan only needed 23 starts in 1989, when he struck out 301 for the season, the most in Rangers history.
Darvish is also the first Rangers pitcher to have two no-hitters broken up in the eighth inning or later since Ryan had five of them like that in 1989. But Darvish will miss Houston next week in Arlington, because his next start is scheduled for Sunday against the Mariners. The Astros have probably seen enough of him for now.
"He's really good, and it's pretty evident when you look at his numbers," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "Watch the performance, it's electric stuff, No. 1 starter stuff, and it was on display here today."
"It was tough today," Astros left fielder Robbie Grossman said. "That was definitely the best I've seen him. He's got so many pitches he can throw for strikes … and he tops that off by having them all be strikes."
Not only is Darvish still looking for his first no-hitter, he is still without a complete game as a Major Leaguer. Washington decided Darvish had enough after eight innings and 115 pitches.
"The pitch count had something to do with it, and you've got to understand the level of anxiety in what he was doing out there," Washington said. "Once he got out of the eighth inning and they had a hit and scored a run, there was no need for him to go back out there."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.