History was nearly made on Tuesday night. In just the Texas Rangers’ second game of the entire 2013 season, star pitcher Yu Darvish mowed down the Astros’ lineup in Houston for eight and two-third’s innings. Twenty-six straight Astros hitters had come up to the plate, and 26 had been forced to make the slow walk back with their heads down.
However, with just one more out between himself and a place among the Major League greats, Darvish blinked.
The ‘Stros’ ninth-hitter — supposed to be the weakest bat on the team — shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, slapped a single to center, breaking up the perfect game, the no-hitter and sending Darvish to the bench for a standing ovation.
Darvish struck out 14 batters in the Rangers’ 7-0 victory. This is the first season as members of the American League for Houston, meaning the rebuilding franchise was almost the no-hit in just their second day in the league.
The 6-foot-5, Japanese native showed Major League executives the type of right arm that transcends language and cultural barriers during both the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Rangers CEO and pitching legend Nolan Ryan saw what everyone else did, but was willing to pay a higher premium for it compared to the rest of baseball. First, the team placed a $51.7 million posting fee, simply for the right to talk to Darvish, from there, the two agreed upon a six-year, $60 million contract.
And only one game into the second season of that deal, Darvish proved Mr. Ryan correct.
His catcher, AJ Pierzynski, nearly caught two perfect games in two years. As a member of the Chicago White Sox, Pierzynski caught Phillip Humber’s perfecto. Interestingly, Humber is now with the Astros and was in the Houston dugout while Darvish dealt masterfully from the mound.
Darvish has been a hero in Japan for years, despite only being 26 years of age.
He nearly made a case for such status on the other side of the world, coming up excruciatingly short in the bottom of the ninth inning.
He will have more chances, and you can be sure that the baseball world (both hemispheres of it) will be watching.