Darvish whiffs 10, but Rangers come up short

Darvish whiffs 10, but Rangers come up short

Darvish whiffs 10, but Rangers come up short
TORONTO -- The Rangers haven't seen the dominant side of Yu Darvish much in the second half, as the Japanese righty has struggled to put his full array of talent together throughout an entire outing.

But that changed Friday, as Darvish turned in one of his best performances of the season. The only problem, however, was that the best offense in baseball had trouble scoring.

The Rangers wasted a stellar effort by Darvish, as the bats were unable to come through in key spots during a 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game set at Rogers Centre.

"We had some chances for a base hit to make a difference," manager Ron Washington said. "If we had made a difference with one base hit, it would have been our victory, I feel."

Darvish did his best, and other than some trouble in the first, was in control for most of the game.

After Darvish issued a five-pitch walk to Kelly Johnson with one out, slugger Edwin Encarnacion made him pay.

Encarnacion drilled a 1-1 slider into the second deck in left field for his team-leading 31st homer of the season to give the Blue Jays an early 2-0 lead.

That's all Darvish needed to spark him, as the 26-year-old went on to retire 13 of the next 14 batters he faced -- striking out seven of them. The only runner that reached base against him over that stretch was Anthony Gose, who Darvish hit to lead off the third inning.

The Rangers got one back for Darvish in the fifth, but Gose proved to be a problem again in the bottom half of the frame.

Gose hit a two-out triple to center out of the reach of a diving Craig Gentry. The next batter, Rajai Davis, brought him in with a base hit up the middle to increase Toronto's lead to 3-1.

"In that situation, if you decide to leave your feet, you have to come up with the ball," Washington said.

Darvish was most upset about the third run he allowed and felt it was his job to stop the Blue Jays after Gose's triple.

"After Gentry dove for the ball and it ended up being a triple, that's a time where I have to back him up, and the fact that I couldn't do it was very upsetting to me," Darvish said through interpreter Joe Furukawa.

Darvish finished the game by retiring the final seven batters he faced and 20 of 23 after Encarnacion went deep. The right-hander lasted seven innings, allowing three runs on three hits while walking one and striking out 10.

The righty recorded his second consecutive quality start after allowing at least five runs in each of his three previous outings.

More importantly, after walking at least three batters in seven consecutive starts, including 15 over his past three, Darvish didn't walk another batter after Johnson in the first.

He felt a mechanical adjustment allowed him to control the ball down in the strike zone and get strikeouts when he needed to with his fastball, cutter and slider, which fooled many Toronto hitters.

"I was able to throw with confidence tonight even if I fell down, 2-0, I didn't panic," said Darvish, who fell to 12-9, but lowered his ERA to 4.51. "I was able to relax and make my pitches."

It was the seventh time this season that Darvish has recorded double-digit strikeouts in a game, which is tops in the Majors. By striking out at least 10 for the seventh time, he also matched a club rookie record set by Jim Bibby in 1973.

Darvish ranks fourth in the American League with 172 strikeouts and is just two behind Bobby Witt for the second most by a Rangers rookie in a single season.

"I think what was most impressive is that after he gave up the two-run homer, he settled in," Washington said. "I thought he had a good fastball tonight, a cutter working."

He got little help, though, as Texas was completely stymied by Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ.

Happ began the game by retiring nine straight batters, striking out the side in both the second and third innings. His six consecutive punchouts matched a club record.

The Rangers didn't put their first runner on base until Happ walked leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler to start the fourth, but Texas didn't take advantage.

Texas finally solved Happ in the fifth by recording its first two hits of the game with consecutive singles by Michael Young and David Murphy to begin the inning.

After Geovany Soto moved both runners over with a sacrifice bunt, Gentry cashed in Young on a groundout to second, cutting the two-run lead in half.

Happ went six innings, allowing one run on two hits, while walking one and striking out eight.

"When you look at the first three innings, that's as good a three innings as you're going to see anywhere," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "He got a number of pitches up in the zone for a swing and miss. He had a very good fastball tonight, he mixed in his changeup and breaking ball in good spots."

The Rangers' best chance to take the lead came during a seventh-inning rally that ultimately fell short. Pinch-hitter Nelson Cruz drew a two-out walk off reliever Steve Delabar to load the bases for rookie Mike Olt.

Olt hit a grounder to third baseman Omar Vizquel that he was unable to field, allowing the Rangers to score one to move within one run. But Brandon Lyon, who relieved Delabar, got Kinsler to ground out with the bases loaded to end the threat.

Lyon, Aaron Loup, Brad Lincoln and closer Casey Janssen, who collected his 16th save in a clean ninth, shut the Rangers down over the final two innings.

Texas fell to 4-3 against the Blue Jays this season and 17-12 vs. the American League East.

Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.