Yu Darvish came within one out of pitching the earliest perfect game in a Major League Baseball season, striking out 14 batters in the Texas Rangers’ 7-0 defeat of the host Houston Astros.
Darvish, 26, who joined the Rangers last season after a record $51.7 million transfer from Japan, was on the verge of throwing the 24th perfect game in MLB history until Houston’s Marwin Gonzalez singled cleanly up the middle with two outs in the ninth inning last night.
Darvish flirted with history in the second game of the season for both teams. The Astros defeated Texas three nights ago in Houston’s first game since moving to the American League after 51 years in the National League. The Astros, who had baseball’s worst record the past two seasons, had an estimated opening day payroll of $18.7 million that is the lowest in MLB since the 2006 Florida Marlins, according to ESPN.
The earliest perfect game in a major league season came last year when Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox threw the first of 2012’s three perfect games on April 21.
Darvish struck out five of the first six Astros batters in the game at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. The right-hander twice struck out the side -- in the second and fourth innings -- and struck out at least one batter in each of the first eight innings.
Darvish went 93-38 with a 1.99 earned run average in seven seasons with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters before the Rangers paid the record transfer fee to bring the two-time Most Valuable Player in Japan’s Pacific League to the U.S.
After receiving a six-year, $60 million contract, Darvish had a 16-9 record with a 3.90 earned run average in 29 starts for the Rangers last season and made the AL All-Star team.
Also yesterday in the AL, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters hit home runs and the Baltimore Orioles won 7-4 at the Tampa Bay Rays. Cleveland won 4-1 at Toronto to ruin the Blue Jays debut of pitcher R.A. Dickey, who won the National League’s Cy Young Award last year for the New York Mets. Michael Morse hit two home runs as the Seattle Mariners Beat the Oakland athletics 7-1.
In the NL, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez homered in Colorado’s 8-4 win at Milwaukee; the St. Louis Cardinals won 6-1 at the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Madison Bumgarner allowed two hits in eight scoreless innings in the San Francisco Giants’ 3-0 victory at the Los Angeles Dodgers.