Darvish has taken no-hitters or perfect games for seven or more innings three times in his career, but none was as memorable as the one on Friday night. Darvish joined Dave Stieb as the only pitcher in the expansion era to lose multiple no-hitters with two outs in the ninth inning. While Darvish's other attempts might have been more dominant in terms of strikeouts or pure stuff, this particular game would have dominated the sports media for days if David Ortiz had not singled with two outs in the ninth.
Darvish officially lost his no-hitter on the 126th pitch he threw in the game when Ortiz hit a hard ground ball through the defensive shift in place. The hit by Ortiz removed the controversy that was surrounding this game that occurred in the seventh inning, one that will still be discussed in the days ahead. In that inning, the official scorer went against the orthodoxy of official scoring and called an untouched routine fly ball off the bat of Ortiz that fell between second baseman Rougned Odor and right fielder Alex Rios an error.
The misplayed fly ball is one that happens all over the league throughout any season. Nearly each time it occurs, the play is scored a hit and nothing more is thought of it. On Friday, as Darvish was flirting with his no-hitter, the play was scored an error as the official scorer acted in accordance to Rule 10.12(a)(1) which states that, "The official scorer shall charge an outfielder with an error if such outfielder allows a fly ball to drop to the ground if, in the official scorer's judgment, an outfielder at that position making ordinary effort would have caught such fly ball." It was reported during the game the official scorer judged that the out would have been made with an ordinary effort, and it was also reported that the Elias Sports Bureau backed the decision made by the official scorer.
Social media discussions debated the legitimacy of the no-hitter throughout the rest of the game saying that the judgment was a partisan one being dictated by the moment and ignoring precedent. In the end, Darvish was left with another near no-hitter and a dominant performance in which he struck out 12 Red Sox batters and allowed just four baserunners. Darvish induced 18 swings and misses on the evening, mixing up his typical variety of pitches. He threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 30 batters he faced in the contest and threw 82 strikes overall. Darvish's final pitch count of 126 comes on the heels of an outing in which he threw 116 pitches during a blowout win against the Los Angeles Angels.
Darvish entered the game with one of the lower run support totals in baseball, receiving just three runs of support per contest. The Rangers nearly tripled that figure as they produced eight runs of support for Darvish in the first six innings of the game against Clay Buchholz and Chris Capuano. Texas banged out 14 hits, including doubles by Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus and a home run by Leonys Martin. Andrus, who has struggled most of the season, had four hits, had his first multihit game since April 15 and is now riding a six-game hitting streak. The game also saw rookie Rougned Odor pick up his first major league hit. In all, six different Rangers drove in runs which is a good sign for a team that came into the game with the sixth-lowest RBI total in the American League.
The effort gave Texas just its fourth win in its past 12 games and their first back-to-back wins since April 22 and 23 at Oakland. It put the Rangers in second place in the AL West and just two games behind the division-leading Oakland Athletics. The next time Darvish takes the mound, it will be on the road in Houston to face the Astros, who he has twice flirted with no-hitters against. Darvish will try to avoid joining Stieb as the only pitcher to lose three no-hit bids with two outs in the ninth inning.
Jason Collette writes for The Process Report, a blog on the Tampa Bay Rays, and also contributes to FanGraphs and Rotowire.