Yu Darvish found himself flirting with history once again against the Astros on Monday afternoon.
Darvish didn’t come as close to perfection this time around, seeing his latest bid broken up with a controversial walk in the sixth inning. But he found himself five outs away from throwing the Rangers’ sixth no-hitter in club history.
The day lost its historic luster when Carlos Corporan homered on the first pitch he saw with one out in the eighth inning. Still, the Rangers gladly ended their longest road trip of the season with a 2-1 victory at Minute Maid Park.
The Rangers went 9-1 on their road trip, extended their winning streak to eight games and stayed one game ahead of the A’s in the American League West.
Darvish and closer Joe Nathan combined for the 23rd one-hitter in franchise history, but there were higher hopes during the game.
“I thought today was going to be the day,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “I’m so disappointed.”
“You feel bad for the guy, for everyone associated with it, because it doesn’t happen very often,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.
“There’s no letdown,” manager Ron Washington said. “Little disappointed because history might have been in the making. But letdown? No.”
Darvish was an out away from a perfect game April 2 when Marwin Gonzalez singled up the middle. Asked if it was disappointing to lose a second no-hit or perfect game bid in the eighth inning or later, Darvish said: “I think I’ve said this before: a win is a win. I’m so glad that I was a big part of this win.”
Darvish had a 2-0 lead before he even took the mound after Beltre and Pierzynski came through with two-out RBI hits in the first inning, which proved to be the only runs he’d have to work with on the day.
Darvish retired the first 17 batters he faced before walking Jonathan Villar on six pitches to break up the perfect game bid with two outs in the sixth. The walk came after a 2-2 slider on the border of the strike zone was called a ball by home plate umpire Ron Kulpa.
The next pitch, another slider, was in the dirt, and Villar headed to first base. Pierzynski wasn’t happy with Kulpa’s call on the 2-2 pitch and let his feelings be known after the walk. He was promptly ejected.
Kulpa said afterward that he felt the 2-2 pitch was down in the zone, and Nathan agreed with him. But Pierzynski said he thought it was a strike at the time, which led to his argument.
“I was upset we walked a guy; I said a bad word and I was ejected,” Pierzynski said. “That was it and it’s over.”
The no-hit bid continued with Geovany Soto taking over catching duties. Darvish retired the next five batters before giving up the one-out solo homer to Corporan on a first-pitch cutter.
“As far as the home run, I thought it was a good pitch,” Darvish said. “I didn’t think the ball would carry that much, but I thought it was good hitting by him.”
Darvish retired the next two batters to close out the eighth inning and ended his day after throwing 115 pitches. He set a career-high with 15 strikeouts and also became the first pitcher in the majors to hit the 200-strikeout mark this season.
Darvish started the game by striking out the side in the first inning and had seven strikeouts by the end of the fourth inning. He struck out Chris Carter to start the fifth, his 200th strikeout of the season. That ties him with Nolan Ryan for the franchise record to reach that mark in the fewest number of starts (23).
“He was spot on,” said Astros outfielder Brandon Barnes, who went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts. “When he’s on, he’s tough to hit. His wipeout-slider — he can throw it three different ways. You never know when it’s coming, so it takes you off his fastball and he just drills a 95 mph fastball in there.”
Said Washington: “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.”