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Associated Press
Texas’ Yu Darvish came within one out of tossing a perfect game Tuesday. Marwin Gonzalez singled for Houston’s only hit.

Perfect near-miss for Texas’ Darvish

– Yu Darvish was one out from a perfect game when Marwin Gonzalez grounded a clean single through the pitcher’s legs, and the Texas Rangers beat the Houston Astros 7-0 on Tuesday night.

The celebrated right-hander from Japan struck out 14 and appeared to be in complete control before Gonzalez smacked the first pitch up the middle. Darvish was unable to get his glove down in time and the ball skittered into center field well beyond a desperate dive by shortstop Elvis Andrus.

Darvish put up his hands – almost like, “Oh well, it happens” – after the single. The Texas infielders immediately came to the mound, and manager Ron Washington joined them.

Washington patted Darvish on the chest and then signaled for a reliever. A crowd that included lots of Rangers fans cheered Darvish as he walked off.

He sat on the bench to watch the rest of the game, and took part in the congratulations line when it ended.

Darvish became the first pitcher to lose a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning since Armando Galarraga on June 2, 2010. Of course, the Detroit pitcher was denied only because of an infamous missed call at first base by umpire Jim Joyce, who later admitted he blew the play.

On the second full day of the major league season, Darvish nearly picked up right where baseball left off last year, when there were a record three perfect games, thrown by Philip Humber, Matt Cain and Felix Hernandez.

Darvish arrived in the majors last year with much fanfare, having already been a five-time All-Star and two-time MVP in Japan. The Rangers paid more than $107 million to get him for five seasons.

The 6-foot-5 righty quickly settled in with Texas, becoming an All-Star last year on the way to going 16-9 with 221 strikeouts. He also once flirted with perfection, retiring the first 17 batters at Kansas City on Sept. 3.

If Darvish had been able to finish the job Tuesday, it would have been the earliest perfecto in history.

He didn’t really need a dazzling play from his defense as he shut down the Astros and chased the 24th perfect game in big league history – including the one Don Larsen tossed in the 1956 World Series, and two in 1880.

It was almost the second time in 10 months the overmatched Astros failed to put a runner on base. Cain’s perfect game for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants came against Houston on June 13 last year.

Many expect the Astros to be the worst team in the majors this year, after two straight 100-loss seasons and a major league-low payroll of less than $22 million.

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