ARLINGTON (AP) – Yu Darvish had a season-high 10 strikeouts pitching into the ninth inning and worked out of a couple of jams for the Texas Rangers in a 2-0 victory over the New York Yankees and countryman Hiroki Kuroda on Tuesday night.
In only the seventh MLB matchup ever of Japanese starters, Darvish (3-0) allowed seven hits and walked a season-low two in 8 1-3 innings. The 10 strikeouts were the most by a Texas pitcher this season.
Ian Kinsler put the Rangers ahead to stay when he led off the first with a deep homer to left center off Kuroda (1-3), who limited Texas to two runs and five hits over 6 2-3 innings. The 37-year-old right-hander, in his fifth season in the majors, struck out five and walked one.
But Kuroda was outpitched by Darvish, the 25-year-old righty making only his fourth major league start – and getting better each time on the mound.
Rangers manager Ron Washington was going to give him a chance to finish the game but pulled Darvish after Nick Swisher‘s one-out single on his 119th pitch.
Joe Nathan needed only one pitch to coax a game-ending double-play grounder by Raul Ibanez. It was his fifth save in six chances, closing out the Rangers’ first shutout victory over the Yankees since Aug. 16, 2000.
The Yankees had the bases loaded with no outs in the third after Derek Jeter reached on a bunt single. Darvish initially failed to field the ball, apparently expecting someone else to get it.
Another sellout crowd at Rangers Ballpark broke into cheers of “Yuuuuuu!” that are already becoming quite routine.
Darvish walked off the mound clapping his hand on his glove while watching the replay on the huge video board high above the right-field seats.
After Robinson Cano hit a leadoff double in the fourth, Darvish needed only seven pitches to get out of that inning. Mark Teixeira and Swisher both struck out swinging on three pitches before Ibanez grounded out on the first pitch he saw.
Darvish struck out the side in the seventh, getting Jeter on a called strike for the third out.
The last matchup of Japanese-born starters was July 22, 2010, when Kuroda threw eight scoreless innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 2-0 win over the Mets and Hisanori Takahashi.
Darvish made his major league debut two weeks ago at Rangers Ballpark, allowing five runs in the first two innings but getting the win in an 11-5 victory over Seattle. Since those first two innings, he has allowed only two earned runs over 24 innings.
Kinsler’s fifth homer of the season was his first leading off a game, extending his team record in that category to 21.
Elvis Andrus drew a one-out walk in the third and had a stolen base on the same pitch that Josh Hamilton swung and lost control of his bat, which helicoptered all the way into short right field before landing in fair territory just beyond first base. On the next pitch, with a different bat, Hamilton lined a single to right-center for a 2-0 lead.
Still, the Rangers weren’t overpowering against Kuroda. Along with the five strikeouts, 12 of their 20 outs against Kuroda were on grounders, and there were two popups.
Notes: Yankees RHP Phil Hughes is scheduled Wednesday night to make his first start at Rangers Ballpark since May 25, 2009, when he allowed only three hits in a career-high-tying eight scoreless innings. … RHP Scott Feldman, who has lost four of his last five decisions at Rangers Ballpark, pitches the series finale for Texas. … In the Rangers fifth, Kinsler was running on a pitch from first when Andrus hit a grounder. Cano snagged the ball on his way to cover second, tagged the sliding Kinsler and threw to first to complete the inning-ending double play.