ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Opponents seeing Yu Darvish in his rookie season for the first time have struggled but had his number the second time around.
That early-season trend, which stretched to multiple starts against Seattle and Oakland, is starting to look like a thing of the past, and now the right-hander is trending another way.
His recent results are the ones the Texas Rangers believed they would get in January, when they acquired the Japanese ace and all the expectations that came with him.
Darvish's latest outing Saturday didn't result in a victory, though it should have. But the eight strong innings he delivered against the Rays only 12 days after beating them in Arlington gave the Rangers a chance for a victory.
Darvish allowed one earned run on just two hits, and 19-year-old Jurickson Profar delivered the go-ahead run with a two-out double in the 10th as the Rangers survived another close game with Tampa Bay, 4-2.
"It's nice to get a win," manager Ron Washington said. "They almost snatched one away from us today after we led the whole game, but the guys didn't quit."
Josh Hamilton hit his 40th homer of the season, becoming the fifth player in club history to reach that plateau, as the Rangers were forced to play extra innings for the third straight game.
The win ensured that the Rangers' lead in the American League West would hold at 4 1/2 games over second-place Oakland and seven games over third-place Anaheim.
The Rangers can claim their seventh straight series with a victory today. That wouldn't have been possible without Darvish, who is 4-1 with a 2.52 ERA in his past 10 starts.
"Who knows what is going to happen after this?" he said. "I'm just going to try to continue to do the same things. Ever since my outing in Toronto, I feel like everything has come together."
Darvish is commanding his fastball and getting ahead early in counts, resulting in quick outs on the ground and many swings and misses. He struck out eight Rays on Saturday, giving him the single-season club rookie record at 196. He walked only two and pitched so efficiently that he left having thrown only 96 pitches.
"He was throwing fastballs by people early on," catcher Geovany Soto said. "His cutter was tremendous, and he got some strikeouts with his split."
Darvish allowed a single to the first batter he faced, Sam Fuld, but retired the next 14 and had faced the minimum through five. He was up 2-0, thanks to Hamilton's towering two-run shot in the fourth, when Jeff Keppinger started the sixth with a single and eventually scored on a groundout by Fuld.
Darvish needed only seven pitches in the seventh, but he walked Keppinger with one out in the eighth, and pinch runner Rich Thompson stole second as Ryan Roberts struck out.
Pinch hitter Carlos Pena followed and hit a grounder into the infield shift. Second baseman Ian Kinsler, though, lost control of the ball as he rose to throw to first.
Thompson never broke stride and scored easily to tie the game.
Tampa Bay had a chance to win it in the ninth, but Mike Adams (5-3) stranded B.J. Upton at second base. It looked like the game would stay deadlocked after Kyle Farnsworth got two quick outs in the 10th.
Soto, though, doubled off the wall in center, and Profar hit a grounder just under the glove of a diving Pena at first and down the line to score pinch runner Leonys Martin.
"I was just trying to stay up the middle, and he threw me a cutter inside," said Profar, who had the game-winning RBI in both of his career starts. "I got good wood on it. As soon as Soto got that double, I was thinking, 'We got them.'"
The next two batters would reach, and Hamilton would get a third RBI as he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Joe Nathan caught Pena looking, albeit on a pitch well off the plate, for his 29th straight save.