MLB

Darvish almost perfect for Rangers against Astros

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HOUSTON (AP)

Texas manager Ron Washington was certainly impressed as he watched Yu Darvish flirt with perfection.

He was even more blown away when he saw a television replay of the Japanese star coming within an out of the second perfect game in Rangers history.

''It wasn't as nasty looking from the side as it was when I saw it on TV,'' Washington said Wednesday. ''He was nasty. I mean, his ball was moving all over the place. He had his cutter working. He had a breaking ball. He threw some splits. He threw a couple of changeups. He threw very few four-seamers. To watch it after the fact, I said he was dominating.''

The celebrated right-hander struck out a career-high 14 in a 7-0 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night. He was in complete control before Marwin Gonzalez grounded the first pitch he saw up the middle with two outs in the ninth inning.

Darvish was unable to get his glove down in time and the ball skittered into center field well beyond a desperate dive by shortstop Elvis Andrus.

Washington immediately went to the mound and signaled for a reliever after the hit by Gonzalez. He'd decided in the eighth inning that he'd pull him the moment there was a hit or a walk.

''He hadn't thrown that many pitches in spring training so I felt that when perfection was over, that was it,'' Washington said. ''We would have brought someone else in and hoped they could have got us what we needed to finish the game off.''

Of course, Washington didn't want to see Darvish lose the perfect game, but if it had to end, he was relieved it ended on a hit instead of a walk.

''I felt like if he would have walked that guy, he was gone,'' Washington said of Chris Carter, who took him to a full count before striking out in the eighth. ''I'm glad (Gonzalez) got a base hit because I would have had darts in my back if I walked out there after a walk.''

The Rangers were a bit concerned about Darvish's pitch count getting too high Tuesday night since he he'd pitched a high of 78 pitches this spring. Darvish, who threw 111 pitches on Tuesday night, acknowledged after the game that it was getting difficult in the late innings.

''In spring training I didn't throw more than 80 pitches, so I felt really fatigued,'' he said.

Some wondered if Darvish attempted to talk Washington into letting him stay on the mound after the hit. Washington had a little fun answering that question.

''No, because I don't understand Japanese,'' he said with a chuckle.

Darvish didn't seem overly troubled that his bid to make history came just short. He even went so far as to say that Tuesday night's performance wasn't his best on the mound. The 26-year-old thought he was better in a game in September against the Royals when he didn't allow a baserunner through 5 2-3 innings.

That, Washington said is one of the great things about Darvish.

''Well, he threw quite a few good ones,'' Washington said. ''He almost threw a perfect game here. I think he's a very humble kid and he'll never pat himself on the back. But he threw a good game against the Royals, but that one last night was almost one for the record books.''

Darvish said it took him a while to feel good on Tuesday night, though it was hard to tell from the results. He sailed through the first four innings, striking out nine, including the side in the second and fourth.

''I didn't really have good balance in the beginning, but as I threw inning after inning I think I just made adjustments,'' Darvish said.

He was the first Ranger to lose a no-hitter as late as 8 2-3 innings, but three Texas pitchers saw one end after 8 1-3 innings, according to stats provided by the Rangers from Elias. None of those were perfect games.

His 14 strikeouts were three more than his previous career-high of 11, and the most by a Rangers pitcher since Nolan Ryan had 14 against the Angels in July of 1991.

The inexperienced Astros have had no answer for him in two career starts against them where he struck out 25 combined in 16 2-3 innings.

Washington knew Darvish was dealing on Tuesday night, but was so concerned that his offense had just one run he didn't realize he was throwing a perfect game until the seventh inning.

''I was hoping we'd put some runs on the board,'' said Washington, whose teams finally began tacking on extra runs in the seventh. ''I was just happy each time Yu got out of the inning because it gave us a chance to go back to the plate and possibly put some runs on the board.''

Darvish, who played seven professional seasons in Japan before joining the Rangers, set rookie franchise records for wins and strikeouts last season. He finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind winner Mike Trout and Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

Tuesday's victory gives Darvish five straight regular-season victories dating to last season. He took the loss in the Rangers' 5-1 loss to Baltimore in the AL wild-card game.

Expectations were already high for Darvish's sophomore season after he won 16 games last year. An outing like Tuesday's has caused even more buzz about what he'll do in Year 2, but the Rangers don't think it changes anything.

''The thing is, we have a chance each time he takes the mound and that's important,'' Washington said. ''Whatever happens in nine innings after that, it happens. But I'm certainly not looking for him to go out there every night and dazzle people the way he did last night. I expect him to go out every night and keep us in ball games. That's all.''

Tagged: Rangers, Astros

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