HOUSTON -- Yu Darvish was one out from a perfect game when Marwin Gonzalez grounded a clean single through the pitcher's legs, and the Rangers beat the Astros, 7-0, last night.
The celebrated righthander from Japan struck out 14 and appeared to be in complete control before Gonzalez smacked the first pitch up the middle. Darvish was unable to get his glove down in time and the ball skittered into centerfield well beyond a desperate dive by shortstop Elvis Andrus.
Washington patted Darvish on the chest and then signaled for reliever Michael Kirkman. A Minute Maid Park crowd of 22,673 that included lots of Rangers fans cheered Darvish as he walked off.
He sat on the bench to watch the rest of the game, and took part in the congratulations line when it ended.
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Darvish became the first pitcher to lose a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning since Armando Galarraga on June 2, 2010. Of course, the Detroit pitcher was denied only because of an infamous missed call at first base by umpire Jim Joyce, who later admitted he blew the play.
On the second full day of the major-league season, Darvish nearly picked up right where baseball left off last year, when there were a record three perfect games, thrown by Philip Humber, Matt Cain and Felix Hernandez.
Darvish arrived in the majors last year with much fanfare, having already been a five-time All-Star and two-time MVP in Japan. The Rangers paid more than $107 million to get him for five seasons.
The 6-5 righty quickly settled in with Texas, becoming an All-Star last year on the way to going 16-9 with 221 strikeouts. He also once flirted with perfection, retiring the first 17 batters at Kansas City on Sept. 3.
If Darvish had been able to finish the job last night, it would have been the earliest perfecto in history.
He didn't really need a dazzling play from his defense as he shut down the Astros and chased the 24th perfect game in big-league history -- including the one Don Larsen tossed in the 1956 World Series, and two in 1880. -- AP