Ortiz's clean single breaks up bid; error ends perfecto in seventh
ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish is still searching for that elusive perfect game, no-hitter and even just his first Major League complete game.
Darvish once again came close to all of the above, but a pop fly that didn't get caught and a ground ball that snuck through a defensive shift ruined everything. They ruined everything except the Rangers' second shutout in two nights and an 8-0 victory over the Red Sox before 45,392 fans on Friday night.
Darvish retired 20 straight batters before losing the perfect game and came within one out of his first Major League no-hitter and complete game. He came within one out of a perfect game on April 2, 2013, against the Astros. He is the only Rangers pitcher to lose a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth, and he has done it twice.
"If I keep pitching like this I'll get it," Darvish said. "But if I keep doing this, I'll have the record for almost no-hitters."
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is a big hero in Boston but played the role of villain on Friday night. He hit the popup into right field in the seventh inning that dropped between rookie second baseman Rougned Odor and right-fielder Alex Rios for an error and cost Darvish his perfect-game bid. Ortiz also came up in the ninth inning and grounded a single through the right side between Odor and shortstop Elvis Andrus to end the no-hitter.
"I was mad ... I should have dove for the ball," Andrus said. "I reacted a little late. It was kind of a laser, that ball. He hit that ball pretty good. I didn't believe right away when he hit that ball, but after I saw the video ... I kind of doubted myself a little bit."
At that point Darvish had thrown 126 pitches, so manager Ron Washington brought in Alexi Ogando. He retired Mike Napoli on a fly to left to end the game.
"That's the best I've seen [Darvish] pitch since he's been here," Washington said. "If he keeps pitching like that, he'll finally do it. He has the ability to do it, it's just not easy to throw a no-hitter."
Darvish was trying to throw the 24th perfect game in Major League history or, at least, the sixth no-hitter by a Rangers pitcher. The last one was Kenny Rogers' perfect game on July 27, 1994.
"He was spectacular," catcher J.P. Arencibia said. "From the start he was spotting his pitches. He's got so many ways to get guys out. To me, the thing that stood out was how many strikeouts he got with the fastball. Usually it's the slider. He was great ... phenomenal."
Darvish completed 8 2/3 innings with two walks and 12 strikeouts, including six in a row at one point -- one short of the club record set by Nolan Ryan and tied by Neftali Feliz.
"I don't think it was the best game I've thrown," Darvish said. "But it was against Boston and I pitched well against them."
Ortiz kept Darvish from being the first pitcher to no-hit the Red Sox since Chris Bosio of the Mariners on April 22, 1993.
"He was outstanding obviously," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He was powerful, a lot of strikes, he never gave in, and four pitches working for him within the strike zone, it keeps him off-balance. But still, his slider is what makes him pretty special. He was on his game early.
"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's able to locate a fastball away from a couple of guys as well. That combination of being powerful and the secondary pitches and the assortment of them, ends up being a night like tonight."
The Rangers, led by Andrus' four-hit night, gave Darvish plenty of run support. Adrian Beltre had an RBI double in the first off of Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, Prince Fielder had a two-run single in the third and Leonys Martin's two-run home run finished off a five-run fifth.
After that, all that was left was to see if Darvish would make history, and that appeared highly likely after Dustin Pedroia flied out to center and Shane Victorino grounded out to first to begin the seventh. Darvish then fell behind 3-1 to Ortiz but got him to hit a high popup to right field.
Odor called for it and seemed in position to catch it. But Rios charged in as well, then backed off. Odor didn't catch the ball as it fell for an error that was charged to Rios, according to the rules of scoring.
"I should have taken control," Rios said.
Darvish apparently wasn't too unhappy about the play.
"Obviously I was a little disappointed," Darvish said. "But I was getting tired. I thought it would be a hit and I wouldn't have to pitch very many more innings."
Darvish did seem to lose some momentum. But, despite walking the next batter he faced, Napoli, Darvish escaped the seventh and worked around a leadoff walk to Xander Bogaerts in the eighth to enter the ninth with his bid for a no-hitter intact.
"He always has his stuff man," Ortiz said. "I'm telling you right now, you don't know what you're looking for from him. He can throw any pitch at any time, he can throw for a strike. Nasty. It seemed like he got a lot of pitches. But he was focused against everybody the whole game. He was making pitches against everybody. It doesn't matter if you're hitting third, ninth, eighth, he was executing. That'll wear you out. That'll definitely wear you out."
Yet Ortiz had one more swing in him in the ninth inning, and Darvish remains a pitcher still in search of Major League history.