Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish was even better than advertised against the Boston Red Sox.
Darvish, who has solidified himself as one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball over two-plus seasons since arriving from Japan, fell one out short of a no-hitter Friday for the second time in his career. The Red Sox’s offense simply didn’t have an answer for the 27-year-old’s impressive repertoire.
“He was outstanding, obviously,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said following Boston’s 8-0 loss in Arlington. “ … He was powerful. (He threw) a lot of strikes. He never gave in. Four pitches (were) working for him within the strike zone — it keeps our guys off-balance. But still, his slider is what makes him pretty special.”
Darvish was filthy right out of the chute Friday, striking out nine of the first 13 hitters he faced while the Rangers’ offense knocked around Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz. Darvish was both overpowering and efficient. Everyone that stepped to the plate looked overmatched the second they dug into the box, particularly against the right-hander’s otherworldly slider.
“He was throwing his fastball and he was locating it, so that made it even tougher,” Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “When you get to two strikes and you know he hasn’t whipped out his best pitch yet, there’s a reason why the numbers are what they were.”
Darvish, who finished with 12 strikeouts, watched his perfect game get broken up with two outs in the seventh inning on an error charged to right fielder Alex Rios. Rios and second baseman Rougned Odor saw David Ortiz’s popup land in-between them, and the official scorer ultimately scored it an error, although it absolutely could have been ruled a hit.
“I think it’s one of the very rare times you see a ball never touched by someone that’s ruled an error,” Farrell said. “Typically, 10 out of 10 (times), that’s a base hit.”
Darvish lost his perfect game on the strange seventh-inning play, but the favorable scoring kept his no-hitter intact. His bid for a no-hitter finally ended with two outs in the ninth inning when Ortiz singled past the Rangers’ infield shift and into right field. Darvish exited after 8 2/3 superb innings in which he allowed just the one hit and two walks.
“He was on his game early, and I think the one thing we were pretty well-aware of is how quick would he get the feel to his slider and the ability to throw it for a strike (and) the ability to expand the strike zone with it?” Farrell said. “He was able to rack up a number of strikeouts with not only the slider, but then you get guys looking for it and he was able to locate the fastball away from a couple of guys as well. That combination of being powerful and the secondary pitches (he has) — and the assortment of them — ends up being a night like tonight.”
Friday marked the second time in Darvish’s career that he came up one out short of a no-hitter. He also lost a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros on April 2, 2013. But while a no-no certainly would have made Friday’s performance even more special for Darvish, the Japanese product can take pride in knowing he shut down a Red Sox’s offense that typically generates several scoring chances even when the unit isn’t scoring runs.
“He was pretty darn good,” Pedroia said. “You can’t dwell on one like this. You just tip your cap and come out tomorrow and try to score some runs to win the game.”