Yu Darvish, it seems, will always flirt with perfection when he pitches against the Houston Astros.
He did it again Friday night at Globe Life Park after doing it twice last season.
“The approach has been the same,” Darvish said. “I think it’s just sheer luck.”
The Texas Rangers’ offense, though, reverted to its usual imperfect form whenever Darvish is on the mound.
Over his final 23 starts last year, the Rangers averaged 3.08 runs per nine innings. He lost 1-0 four times. He made seven straight starts in which he pitched at least five innings but received two or fewer runs of support.
Even in Darvish’s 2014 debut Sunday, the Rangers scored only three times, and each run came after it was certain that he wouldn’t return.
One would have been enough Friday for him to win the second time this year. Darvish didn’t get it, but the Rangers finally did after he was long gone.
Darvish allowed only one hit and one walk in eight innings, striking out nine, and Robinson Chirinos singled home Kevin Kouzmanoff with two outs in the 12th inning for the game’s only run and a 1-0 Rangers victory.
It was the first time since Sept. 22, 1992, that a Rangers game had gone into the 11th inning scoreless. Nolan Ryan started that game.
The Rangers managed to win despite failing to score in 10th after loading the bases with no outs. The win was their third at home, all in walk-off fashion.
“If it’s going to happen like that every night, we’ll take it,” Chirinos said.
Darvish retired the first 15 batters he faced and allowed only a Matt Dominguez single to center five days after tossing seven scoreless innings at Tampa Bay.
Elvis Andrus provided enough punch for Darvish to win last weekend. The Rangers’ were just flailing away Friday.
The offense managed only eight hits and went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position. But no sequence was worse than in the 10th after they opened the inning with three walks to load the bases with no outs.
Mitch Moreland bounced into a fielder’s choice, Chirinos struck out and Leonys Martin bounced out.
It was the fourth inning the Rangers failed to bring a runner home from third base, and it brought Neal Cotts to the mound a game after blowing an eighth-inning lead Wednesday at Boston.
Dominguez collected his second hit, and the Astros’ second, to start the inning, but Cotts got Marwin Gonzalez to hit into a double play and struck out Jonathan Villar. Jason Frasor (1-0) worked a scoreless 12th.
Scott Feldman and four relievers scattered five hits in the first 11 innings. Feldman, the former Rangers pitcher, allowed two hits in seven innings only days after the passing of his father.
Darvish struck out seven and again worked efficiently in five perfect innings to open the game. The only hit against him came to start the sixth, when Dominguez lined a single to center but only after Alex Rios came up short while chasing down a foul ball against the stands.
Darvish worked the first inning in 10 pitches and the second in 11. In the third, he got Robbie Grossman to kick off a stretch of five straight strikeouts.
In the fifth, with blood beginning to leak from the top of his right thumb because a scratch, he needed only 10 pitches to retire the side.
Dominguez got as far as second base, and the only other runner against Darvish, Jose Altuve, was stranded at first after a two-out walk in the seventh.
When Joakim Soria emerged from the bullpen, Darvish was done after only 101 pitches.
“Overall, I had good control of my pitches, and there was a lot of life in my fastball,” he said. “If I could pitch like this in every game I pitch, it would be very nice.”
The Rangers had two chances against Feldman.
After Kouzmanoff reached on a fielder’s choice in the second, he hesitated between first and second on a Moreland liner that went to the wall in right-center field. Kouzmanoff had to hold at third, and Feldman wiggled free with a strikeout of J.P. Arencibia and a Martin groundout.
Kouzmanoff and Moreland were hit by Feldman pitches with one out in the seventh, and they moved to third after pinch hitter Jim Adduci grounded out. Martin was walked intentionally to fill the bases, but Josh Wilson struck out on three pitches.
The Rangers loaded the bases again in the ninth, again with two outs, but Andrus grounded out.
After the fiasco in the 10th, Shin-Soo Choo collected a one out single in the 11th but was stranded there as Andrus and Rios failed to deliver.
Kouzmanoff singled and moved to second with one out in the 12th, but Moreland looked a strike three before Chirinos’ liner to center.
“You have to give some credit to the Houston Astros’ pitching staff,” manager Ron Washington said. “But they didn’t make it into the 13th inning, so it worked out for us.”