Red Sox catcher was behind plate last time Darvish flirted with history
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ARLINGTON -- Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski had a unique perspective on Yu Darvish's near no-hitter Friday night, because Pierzynski was behind the plate the last time Darvish went 8 2/3 innings without allowing a hit.
Darvish was one out shy of a perfect game in Houston on April 2, 2013, when Pierzynski was with the Rangers. On Friday, Darvish came within one out of a no-hitter again -- joining Dave Stieb as the only other pitcher to have two no-hitters broken up in the ninth inning during the expansion era -- and this time Pierzynski was on the other side. He struck out and grounded out twice in his three at-bats against Darvish.
J.P. Arencibia was behind the plate for Texas on Friday, and Pierzynski said catching a potentially historic game like that is a special experience.
"You get nervous, you get a little excited, but it's definitely fun," Pierzynski said. "Those no-hitters and perfect games aren't planned, they just happen. So it's not like when you win a World Series where there's a buildup. With that, it just kind of builds during the game. It's a one-day experience and it's fun. That's what you play for."
Evaluating Darvish's performance Friday, Pierzynski said the third-year Japanese star threw more fastballs than he typically did last season -- something Pierzynski said he often urged the pitcher to do when they were batterymates.
"Maybe he finally listened to somebody that he needs to throw more fastballs because last year, we tried to get on him about that and he never did it," Pierzynski said. "And tonight he threw a lot of fastballs, he had confidence in his fastballs and it was good to see. ... He was ahead in the count, and when you've got all the weapons that he has to get you out, when you're behind in the count, it's tough at-bats off him. I tip my hat to him. He threw the ball well."
Darvish was at his best velocity Friday -- hitting 96 mph at times -- and didn't have much trouble putting the fastball in the right spots.
"He throws 95 miles an hour when he wants to," Pierzynski said. "If he's able to command it, it just adds more things that hitters have to think about. You saw that tonight."
In the almost-perfect game Darvish threw to Pierzynski, a single up the middle by Houston's Marwin Gonzalez ended the pitcher's bid for history. This time, it was David Ortiz's single through the shift to right. So perhaps Pierzynski, with the benefit of hindsight, had more empathy for Darvish than the rest of the Red Sox.
"You pat him on the backside and say, 'great job,'" Pierzynski said. "It's one of those things where when you get that close, you want the guy to get it. When it doesn't happen, it's a little deflating, it's a little disheartening, but at the end of the day, it wasn't meant to be, and tonight it wasn't meant to be again."