ESPN Yu Darvish saw the ball skip between his shins, dashing his chance at perfection. Immediately, several Texas Rangers came to the mound to console him.”I think my teammates were more disappointed than I was,” he said through a translator.Darvish was one out from a perfect game when Marwin Gonzalez grounded a clean single through the pitcher’s legs, and Texas beat the Houston Astros 7-0 on Tuesday night. The celebrated right-hander from Japan struck out a career-high 14 and was 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 center field well beyond a desperate dive by shortstop Elvis Andrus.At that moment, one thought went through Darvish’s mind.”I can now go back to the dugout,” he deadpanned. “Even if I got the complete game today, it’s not going to translate to three or five wins. It’s a win. A win’s a win.”After the hit, Darvish smiled and put up his hands — almost like, “Oh well, it happens.” Texas’ infielders quickly went to the mound, and manager Ron Washington joined them.”I didn’t want to be the last out,” Gonzalez said. “I was trying to look for a good pitch to hit and put it in play. That’s all I was thinking.”Washington patted Darvish on the chest and then signaled for a reliever. A crowd of 22,673 that included plenty of Rangers fans cheered Darvish as he walked off after 111 pitches. He stopped and tipped his cap before getting high-fives from teammates in the dugout.He sat on the bench to watch the rest of the game, then joined the handshake line after the final out.And if Darvish was upset about coming oh-so-close, he didn’t show it.”I went that far,” he said. “I’m really satisfied.”Working from the stretch throughout — even though he never needed to — 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. Yu Darvish came within one out of making history, losing his bid for a perfect game against the Astros with two outs in the 9th inning.
Several experts picked Yu Darvish to win the Cy Young award for the AL at the beginning of this season following a dominating spring, and I laughed, and said he’s good but not Cy Young good. I was wrong. Darvish was incredible last night in his first start of the season, and he put the Major Legues on notice with this effort, Yu is improved and ready to become a star.
However, as far as near perfect games go, Darvish’s performance is at the bottom of the impressive list. The Houston Astros are not only the clear least talented team in baseball, but they also were playing in just their second game after switching to the American League, and very few on their team had faced Darvish in any capacity. It will get more difficult from here, as Darvish faces teams who have seen him before, and who are used to playing with a designated hitter in the American League.
Hard to nitpick a near perfect game though, there is no taking away from it, Darvish was great. If you gave out the Cy Young Award today, it goes to Darvish, obviously. Great performance.
I would be slightly worried if I was a Rangers fan, because Darvish was checking his hand at the end of the game, and it seemed he was dealing with a blister somewhere on his pitching hand. That happens when you throw 111 pitches and pitch 8.2 innings in your first start of the season. I am not blaming Rangers manager Ron Washington for keeping Darvish in the game, he had to give him a shot at perfection, even with a comfortable lead. A blister this early in the season could nag Darvish for awhile so it’s something for Rangers fans to keep their eyes on.