"The winning run came to the plate, but we had Joe Nathan on the mound, so I wasn't too worried," Darvish said after the Rangers held on for an 8-7 victory over the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Saturday night.
The Rangers thought they had broken the game open with a six-run sixth inning that included another big game-tying home run from Nelson Cruz. As it turned out, Lance Berkman's home run in the top of the eighth inning proved to be the difference.
"I don't think anybody expected that," Berkman said. "It's not the way you draw it up, but we'll take it."
The Rangers came within one batter of blowing their first save of the season before Nathan, with a runner on first, got Chris Carter to pop out to shortstop to end the game. Nathan now has 11 saves on the season, and the Rangers are still the only team in the Majors without a blown save.
"Obviously we don't want to get in those situations," Nathan said. "You have a four-run lead going into the ninth, but nothing is comfortable until the last out. We play nine innings, a lot of teams do and they showed they had some fight in them."
Darvish ended up getting the victory and is now 6-1 with a 2.73 ERA on the season. The last time Darvish faced the Astros, he came within one out of throwing a perfect game. This time he had trouble with Matt Dominguez, who was not in the Astros lineup on April 2. Dominguez hit a solo home run off Darvish in the third inning and a two-run shot in the fifth that gave the Astros a 3-1 lead.
Those were two of just three hits Darvish allowed in seven innings. He walked three, struck out eight and threw 105 pitches before turning it over to the bullpen.
"It wasn't one of his better outings, but he found a way to get it done," Washington said. "He got us through seven innings ... we just needed to get six more outs. They took a long time to get, but we got them."
The Rangers managed just four hits -- including a second-inning home run from Adrian Beltre -- through five innings against Astros starter Erik Bedard. But Berkman got the Rangers going with a leadoff single in the sixth. At that point, Bedard had thrown 90 pitches, and manager Bo Porter wanted a right-hander to face Beltre and Cruz. Philip Humber struck out Beltre, but Cruz hit a 1-2 fastball into the Astros' bullpen in right-center for his ninth home run of the season.
"That was the big hit. ... That was a real big hit," Washington said.
It's the second straight night and third time this week that Cruz has tied a game with a sixth-inning home run. He also delivered a two-run homer for Darvish last Sunday that overcame the Red Sox's 3-1 lead in a game the Rangers eventually won, 4-3.
"Especially in those situations, I guess I feel good about being able to deliver when the team needs it the most," Cruz said. "I guess I get more focused. It's something I can't explain, but it's something I've done all my career. In the late innings, I get more focused."
Mitch Moreland then crushed one to deep center that landed on the hill. By the time Robbie Grossman ran it down, Moreland was on his way to third with the second triple of his career. He scored on David Murphy's double down the left-field line. After Geovany Soto walked, Martin lined a triple to left-center to bring home both runners. Ian Kinsler struck out, but Elvis Andrus brought home a run with a single to center to make it 7-3.
Berkman added his home run to lead off the eighth to give the Rangers a five-run lead, and it proved to be more than window dressing.
"We needed every run we got tonight," Washington said.
That's because the Astros weren't done. They scored once off reliever Jason Frasor in the eighth to set up the tense final inning.
Michael Kirkman started the inning in a non-save situation. But he made it a save situation by giving up a single to Carlos Corporan and a double to Carlos Pena, putting runners on second and third. So Nathan came in, and Trevor Crowe drove in a run with a single to center. That also put runners on first and third with Dominguez at the plate.
After a wild pitch scored Pena and moved Crowe to third, Dominguez hit a slow roller to the left of the mound that looked like a hit. But Nathan made a terrific play to barely get him at first base.
"That probably saved the inning," Nathan said. "If he was safe, we would probably be singing a different note."
Crowe stayed at third, but scored on Marwin Gonzalez's sacrifice fly. Nathan then walked Grossman, but finally got Carter to pop out to end it.
"The ball was in the hands of the guy I wanted to have it," Washington said. "I was hoping he would get us three outs and he did."
It wasn't perfect, but it was good enough.