April 2 (The Sports Xchange) - Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish came within one out of matching the greatest single-game pitching performances in Major League Baseball, striking out 14 while nearly throwing a perfect game for the Texas Rangers against the Houston Astros on Tuesday.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Rangers leading 7-0, Astros shortstop Marwin Gonzalez hit a single through Darvish's legs to break up his bid for a rare perfect game.
In 135 years of Major League Baseball, there have been just 23 perfect games, with no pitcher ever tossing more than one.
There were three last season, by the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez, the Chicago White Sox's Philip Humber and San Francisco's Matt Cain.
"I think my team mates were more disappointed than I was," Darvish told reporters through a translator.
"If I got the complete game today, it's not going to translate to three or five wins. It's a win. A win is a win. My teammates are a little more disappointed than I am."
Darvish threw 111 pitches, flashing an unhittable fastball-slider combination. He was removed from the game after Gonzalez's hit.
The only pitchers to fan 14 in a perfect game were the Los Angeles Dodgers' Sandy Koufax in 1965 and Cain last year.
In his second season with Texas after arriving from Japan, Darvish had never thrown a major league complete game. His longest previous outing was 8 1/3 innings against the New York Yankees last April.
After striking out Jose Altuve and Brett Wallace to start the game, Darvish struck out the side in the second inning, closing the frame with three consecutive called strikes against Justin Maxwell.
Jason Castro and Carlos Corporan actually managed to put the ball in play in the third, but Darvish recovered to fan four consecutive batters. By the close of the fifth inning he'd already recorded his ninth career 10-strikeout game, reaching that plateau in just his 30th start.
"He ended up not throwing a no-hitter, not throwing a perfect game, but he had perfect game stuff," Astros manager Bo Porter said of Darvish.
"It was more about him than it was about us."
The Rangers jumped on top with a run in the third inning. Texas strung together consecutive one-out hits before shortstop Elvis Andrus worked a walk to load the bases ahead of Lance Berkman. Facing a 1-2 count, Berkman poked a single the opposite way into left field to score Craig Gentry, who had doubled.
Houston starter Lucas Harrell recovered to retire Adrian Beltre and David Murphy, and later started inning-ending double plays in the fourth and sixth to avoid additional danger.
Harrell was lifted after six stellar innings, allowing that solo earned run on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
Ian Kinsler hit a two-run homer in the seventh, and Texas added four runs in the late innings.
(Editing by Julian Linden/Patrick Johnston)