David Ortiz got the Boston Red Sox off to a good start with a two-run homer in the first against Texas ace Yu Darvish.
Then David Ross went deep an inning later.
Except that’s all the Red Sox would get against Darvish, who matched a career high with 14 strikeouts in seven innings before Adrian Beltre’s two-out RBI single in the ninth gave the Rangers a 4-3 win Sunday for a three-game series sweep.
"They’re all tough," Red Sox starter Jon Lester said. "The guys did a good job of getting the lead, and I have to do a better job of minimizing the damage after I get the lead."
Lester, with a 4-0 record, also got a no decision after seven strikeouts in six innings. Like Darvish, the left-hander was hurt by two home runs.
" I felt good. I felt like I had good stuff," Lester said. "I just made two mistakes."
Mitch Moreland’s fourth homer, an opposite-field shot that landed only a couple of rows into the left-field seats – and just inside the pole – got Texas within 3-1 in the third. Nelson Cruz hit his seventh homer, a two-run shot to center after Beltre’s single, to tie the game in the sixth.
Beltre reached down and out over the plate to line a hit to right-center off Clayton Mortensen (0-2). That sent home Elvis Andrus, who had reached on a two-out bloop single and moved up on a wild pitch before the Red Sox opted to intentionally walk Lance Berkman and bring Beltre to the plate.
"We showed a lot of heart right there," Andrus said. "That shows for us how good we are right now."
Boston (20-11) has its first three-game losing streak this season, and now shares the best record in the majors with the Rangers and St. Louis.
"I don’t think this team has gotten ahead of itself in any way," Boston manager John Farrell said. "Despite the early success that we’ve had, we knew this would be a tough series."
While Darvish had 14 strikeouts for the second time this season, the right-hander from Japan allowed multiple homers in a game for only the second time in his 36 starts for the Rangers.
"After I gave up those runs, I told myself I was only a couple of runs behind. I was trying to stay focused and not dwell on what had happened," Darvish said through his translator.
Rangers closer Joe Nathan (1-0), the third reliever, worked around a walk and a hit in the ninth.
The game was 3-3 when Darvish threw the last of 78 strikes among a career-high 127 pitches, denying him a chance at his sixth victory to equal the most in the majors. He did raise his majors-best strikeout total to 72, and was still throwing in the mid-90s before punctuating his exit with consecutive strikeouts with a runner on base, and pumped his fist walking off the mound.
Darvish was already at 105 pitches after striking out Dustin Pedroia, Ortiz and Mike Napoli in order in the sixth inning. But there was still nobody warming up in the Texas bullpen at that point.
"He’ll get pushed, today was one of those days," manager Ron Washington said. "He gave us 120-something pitches, because we needed it out of him, and he was able to give it to us. … You had two of the best pitchers in the game out there. I don’t know what Darvish would have done to me if I would have taken him out of the game."
Darvish’s other 14-strikeout game came in his first start this season, when he retired the first 26 Houston batters and was within one out of a perfect game before giving up a single April 2. The last time an American League pitcher had multiple 14-strikeout games in a season was 2000, when Pedro Martinez had three and Mike Mussina two.
After going his first 37 2-3 innings this season without giving up a long ball, Darvish gave up homers in three consecutive innings. He allowed a homer in his final frame against the Chicago White Sox his previous start Tuesday night.
Ortiz extended the longest hitting streak in the majors to 25 games, including all 13 of his games this season for Boston, when he pulled a pitch deep into the right-field stands for a two-run shot in the first. An inning later, Ross homered on hanging breaking ball over the middle of the plate.
"Not many people are as good as I am," Ross said, with a chuckle. "I just close my eyes and swing hard. That’s my approach."
NOTES: Ortiz is hitting .440 since his late debut this season because of an injured right Achilles that also limited him to 90 games last year, and has an extra-base hit in 11 of his last 12 games. … Four of Ross’ nine hits this year are homers. … Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury was the only Red Sox player without a strikeout against Darvish. … Pedroia snapped an 0-for-14 slide in the first with an two-out infield single on a dribbler down the third base line that Darvish fielded before Ortiz homered. … Ortiz’s 25-game hitting streak is the longest for the Red Sox since Pedroia’s 25-gamer from June 29-July 28, 2011.