ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Another quality start by a Rangers pitcher and timely hitting helped Texas snap a two-game losing streak as the Rangers earned a 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in front of 22,569 at Tropicana Field.
Welcome back: Darvish hadn't pitched since March 16 but the Rangers ace was in mid-season form, tossing 89 pitches and scattering seven hits over seven scoreless innings. The 27-year-old right-hander struck out six -- all in the first three innings -- and walked one in his first outing of the regular season. In the first, Darvish recorded two strikeouts, reaching 500 for his career in 401 2/3 innings -- passing Kerry Wood's record set in 2001. It followed six quality innings by rookie Nick Martinez on Saturday and gave the Rangers some momentum heading into Boston, where they begin a three-game series against the Red Sox on Monday. Darvish allowed a hit in each inning, but he only faced trouble in the fifth when the righty escaped a second-and-third situation with one out by forcing Wil Myers into a pop fly to Prince Fielder and inducing Ben Zobrist into a flyout to Shin-Soo Choo in left.
Timely hitting: The Rangers entered the eighth inning mired in a scoreless tie and needed a spark. After Rays starter Alex Cobb had matched zeroes with Darvish over his seven innings of work, Rays reliever Joel Peralta got Leonys Martin to ground out to second and J.P. Arencibia to strike out. Choo singled to keep the inning alive. Then Elvis Andrus worked a full count before he put the Rangers on the board by smacking a line drive over the left field wall for his first homer of the season and the Rangers' first lead since they blew a 4-3 one in the eighth on Saturday. In the ninth, with Adrian Beltre at third and two outs, Donnie Murphy gave the Rangers some insurance, putting the visitors up 3-0 when he hustled down the line on an infield hit to the gap at short to beat a throw from Yunel Escobar.
Nifty pitching: Alexi Ogando began the eighth with a 2-0 lead and promptly surrendered a single to Ben Zobrist to start the inning. After forcing Longoria into a fly out and James Loney into a line out to short, Ogando walked Desmond Jennings. Ron Washington then called on Neal Cotts, who had blown a save opportunity on Saturday. The lefty calmly struck out Matt Joyce to end the threat. Joakim Soria pitched a perfect ninth to record his first save of the year.
Up next: The Rangers begin a three-game series on Monday when they face the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Righthander Tanner Scheppers faces Red Sox righthander John Lackey in a game scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT.