Rangers ace Yu Darvish didn’t allow a baserunner until the sixth inning, and didn’t allow a hit until a Carlos Corporan home run with one out in the eighth inning Monday afternoon in Houston.
The major league leader in strikeouts recorded a career-high 15 punch-outs and allowed just one hit in the 2-1 Texas victory. Darvish's season strikeout total is now at 207, 29 more than Felix Hernandez and Matt Harvey, who are tied for the league's second-highest mark.
The Rangers got off to a quick start at the plate and on the mound. With two outs in the first, Adrian Beltre found the left-center gap for an RBI double, and A.J. Pierzynski followed with a single to center, scoring the Rangers cleanup hitter.
Darvish struck out the side in the first inning. And while it was the end of the scoring for the Rangers' bats, it was only the beginning for Darvish on the mound.
Darvish struck out 10 of the first 15 batters he faced, including eight-of-10 Astros between the third and sixth innings.
The only inning in which Darvish didn’t strike out at least one Astros hitter was the second inning.
A moment of controversy came in the sixth inning when home plate umpire Ron Kulpa ejected Pierzynski from the game for taking objection to a 2-2 pitch to Jonathan Villar that was called a ball.
Villar went on to walk, foiling the possibility of a perfect game for Darvish.
So it was a rare game in which more catchers appeared for Texas than pitchers, as Geovany Soto took over behind the dish to catch the final three-and-a-third innings Monday afternoon.
Corporan’s home run in the eighth inning ended a no-hit bid as well as the shutout. But the number of Ranger ejections matched the number of Astros hits in the game.
Joe Nathan pitched a hitless ninth inning to complete a combined one-hitter and record his 35th save of the season.
Darvish threw 115 pitches in Monday’s game, including nine different 3-2 counts. Six of those nine batters became strikeout victims.
Jake Elmore was the only Astros batter that didn’t strike out in the game. Robbie Grossman and Brandon Barnes struck out three times for Houston, and four other Astros struck out twice.
Darvish now has 50 strikeouts in his last five starts. The righty has only walked 10 and given up five earned runs in that span, during which Darvish is 4-1.
Joe Nathan has seen his share of dominant pitching performances, and he told Fox Sports Southwest's Dana Larson that Yu's outing definitely qualified.
"We were trying to sit down there and do what we do.. the normal stuff... we thought we had a chance, looked like one bad pitch. I think he was happy with his performance tonight... Yu Darvish was spectacular." said Nathan, who came on in the 9th and recorded a save in a perfect inning.
"He [Yu] had everything working today. Fastball, cutter, slider, changeup," said Rangers manager Ron Washington.
The win completes a 10-game road trip for the Rangers that went through Oakland, Anaheim and Houston. Their 9-1 record on the trip marks the highest winning percentage on a road trip of seven or more games in franchise history.
Texas has now won eight consecutive games and leads the AL West division by one game over Oakland, who won in Toronto earlier Monday.
The Rangers return home to play Milwaukee Tuesday night.
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