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Texas at Houston

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Texas (69-50) «200000000290
Houston (37-80)000000010111

Darvish overpowers Astros again; Rangers finish sweep

CBSSports.com wire reports
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HOUSTON -- With every swing and miss, this looked as if it might be the day Yu Darvish pitched a no-hitter against the overmatched Houston Astros.

And then with one out in the eighth inning, Carlos Corporan ended Darvish's latest bid with a home run.

Darvish once again neared perfection versus Houston, striking out a career-high 15 and permitting only one hit in eight innings as the Texas Rangers won 2-1 Monday for their season-high eighth straight victory.

"A win's a win," Darvish said through a translator. "I'm just glad I was a big part of this win."

Texas won for the 13th time in 14 games and headed home atop the AL West.

In early April, Darvish (12-5) was one out away from a perfect game at Minute Maid Park before Marwin Gonzalez singled between his legs. Darvish joined Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers in team history to have more than one start of at least eight innings with one hit or less.

Darvish became the first pitcher to have two no-hitters broken up in the eighth inning or later since it happened to Justin Verlander in 2011.

Outfielder Alex Rios chased Corporan's drive to the wall, but had to watch as it sailed about five rows into the stands. Darvish simply looked around, and then wiped his brow with his arm before preparing to throw his next pitch.

"Well, I'd like to see it happen of course," manager Ron Washington said. "But those are professional hitters over there, too, and Corporan caught one."

Until the homer, Houston's lone runner came when rookie Jonathan Villar drew a two-out walk in the sixth. A pitch before the walk, Texas catcher A.J. Pierzynski was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Ron Kulpa on a breaking ball he called low.

"Was it a strike? I don't know," Pierzynski said. "Obviously I thought it was and Ron didn't, and I was upset we walked the guy and I said a bad word and I was ejected."

Darvish was perplexed by the actions of his catcher.

"When he got ejected, I thought, `What is he doing?" Darvish said with a laugh.

The two-time All-Star ace from Japan was sharp all game, retiring the last two batters in eighth and exiting after increasing his major league-leading strikeout total to 207.

"He used everything today: slider, curveball, cutter, fastball," Washington said. "He moved it around, kept them off-balance. When they were looking for breaking balls he was throwing fastballs and cutters and when they were looking for cutters he was throwing breaking balls."

"I was pretty locked in," he said.

Darvish struck out 14 in four prior games this year, including his earlier gem at Houston. His 15 strikeouts on Monday matched his career-high from his professional career in Japan.

He is 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA and 37 strikeouts in three starts in Houston this season, and is 4-1 with a 1.31 ERA and 50 strikeouts in five starts since returning from the disabled list.

Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his 35th save.

The AL West-leading Rangers took a quick lead over the last-place Astros. With two outs in the first, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre doubled and Pierzynski hit an RBI single off Brett Oberholtzer (2-1).

Oberholtzer yielded seven hits and two runs with six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings for his first loss in three major league starts.

The Houston hitters had no such luck with Darvish.

Darvish was strong from the start relying mostly on a four-seam fastball, sliders and a cutter against the Astros' inexperienced lineup.

"He doesn't just have control. This guy has command," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "He can throw every pitch the way he wants to throw it, even out of the strike zone. Which, when you have that kind of repertoire, you're going to be up against it."

He struck out the side in the first inning before getting two fly outs and a ground out in the second.

The 26-year-old righty fanned two each in the third and fourth innings, struck out the side in the fifth and the first batter of the sixth inning. His strikeout of Chris Carter to start the fifth was his 200th of the season, giving him a team record for fewest games (23) needed to reach the mark.

In the sixth, Darvish started walking off the mound after his close pitch to Villar. Pierzynski also began heading to the dugout, but Kulpa said it missed.

Pierzynski didn't like the call, started yelling in Kulpa's face and was quickly tossed. Geovany Soto took at catcher and Darvish walked Villar on a full count.

Darvish, a two-time MVP in Japan, flirted with perfection last Sept. 3, too, retiring the first 17 batters at Kansas City.

Notes

  • Injured Texas DH Lance Berkman is getting Monday off and will DH for Double-A Frisco on Tuesday and Wednesday and will be re-evaluate him after that.
  • Neftali Feliz, who was expected to throw Saturday for Round Rock but did not pitch as a precaution because of mild right arm triceps tendinitis, has been shut down. Feliz has been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery last year.
  • Darvish set rookie franchise records for wins (16) and strikeouts (221) last season. He finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind winner Mike Trout and Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
 
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After four starts with 14 strikeouts this season, Yu Darvish records a career-high 15 K's vs. Houston.  (USATSI)
After four starts with 14 strikeouts this season, Yu Darvish records a career-high 15 K's vs. Houston. (USATSI)

Players of the Game
Texas

Y. Darvish
IP 8.0
H 1
ER 1
BB 1
K 15
Houston

B. Oberholtzer
IP 6.2
H 7
ER 2
BB 2
K 6
 
Texas Rangers
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Leonys Martin, CF3010111 .278
Elvis Andrus, SS4000012 .255
Ian Kinsler, DH4110000 .266
Adrian Beltre, 3B4131000 .324
A.J. Pierzynski, C3021001 .281
   Geovany Soto, C1000011 .214
Alex Rios, RF4000024 .279
Jeff Baker, 1B3000011 .296
   Mitch Moreland, 1B1000010 .244
Craig Gentry, LF4010011 .243
Jurickson Profar, 2B3010101 .245
Totals3429228  
Batting
2B - Ian Kinsler (21, Oberholtzer), Adrian Beltre (25, Oberholtzer)
RBI - Adrian Beltre (72), A.J. Pierzynski (47)
2-OUT RBI - Adrian Beltre (33), A.J. Pierzynski (16)
CS - Leonys Martin (7, 2nd base by Oberholtzer/Corporan), Craig Gentry (3, 2nd base by Lo/Corporan)
Team LOB - 7
Texas Rangers
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Yu Darvish (W,12-5) 81111151 2.64
Joe Nathan (S,35) 1000010 1.51
Pitches-Strikes - Yu Darvish 115-74, Joe Nathan 9-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Yu Darvish 2-7, Joe Nathan 2-0
Batters Faced - Yu Darvish 26, Joe Nathan 3
Houston Astros
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Robbie Grossman, LF4000031 .244
Marc Krauss, RF4000020 .164
Brett Wallace, 1B3000020 .215
Chris Carter, DH3000020 .211
Matt Dominguez, 3B3000020 .227
Carlos Corporan, C3111010 .246
Brandon Barnes, CF3000030 .238
Jake Elmore, 2B3000000 .240
Jonathan Villar, SS2000110 .236
Totals28111116  
Batting
HR - Carlos Corporan (7, Darvish)
RBI - Carlos Corporan (16)
SB - Jonathan Villar (11, 2nd base off Darvish/Soto)
Team LOB - 1
Fielding
E - Robbie Grossman (2, Misplayed grounder)
Houston Astros
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Brett Oberholtzer (L,2-1) 6.2722260 2.57
Josh Fields 1.1100010 7.15
Lo Chia-Jen 1100010 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Brett Oberholtzer 98-69, Josh Fields 18-12, Lo Chia-Jen 16-11
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brett Oberholtzer 5-8, Josh Fields 1-2
Batters Faced - Brett Oberholtzer 28, Josh Fields 5, Lo Chia-Jen 3
Game Information
Attendance - 18712
Game Time - 2:38
Temperature - 73
Umpires - Home - Ron Kulpa, First Base - Tom Hallion, Second Base - Phil Cuzzi, Third Base - Chris Guccione