Darvish brilliant, albeit imperfect

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Yu Darvish was the best he's been as a major leaguer on Tuesday.

Yu Darvish came this close to throwing the 24th perfect game in major league history.

Yu Darvish
Start Summary

Marwin Gonzalez thwarted Darvish’s bid with his ninth-inning single, marking the fifth time in the past 25 seasons that a perfect game was broken up with two outs in the ninth.

It was the first time that had happened since Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had his perfect game broken up when Jason Donald of the Cleveland Indians was called safe by first-base umpire Jim Joyce on a play in which replays showed Donald was out.

The last prior to that came on "Sunday Night Baseball" on Sept. 2, 2001, when New York Yankees starter Mike Mussina had his perfect game broken up by Boston Red Sox pinch-hitter Carl Everett.

Let’s review what was a memorable night regardless.

The domination

Darvish finished with a career-high 14 strikeouts. That was the most by a Rangers pitcher in a game since Nolan Ryan had 14 against the Angels in 1991. In fact, the last seven times prior to Tuesday that a Rangers pitcher struck out at least 14, Ryan was the pitcher.

Once Darvish got to two strikes, a strikeout was nearly a sure thing. He whiffed 14 of the 16 hitters on whom he got a two-strike count.

Darvish got 27 swings and misses, tied for the second most by any pitcher in a start in the past five seasons. Francisco Liriano got 30 against the Athletics last season. Darvish got 14 outs on pitches thrown outside the strike zone, including 10 strikeouts

Of the 13 balls put in play against Darvish, nine were ground balls. The 69 percent ground-ball rate was the second highest of Darvish’s career.

While the start may not have ended with a zero in the right column for Darvish, it did end with a zero in one noteworthy place.

This was the first walk-free start of Darvish’s career.

What if he’d gotten it?

Had Darvish thrown the perfect game it would have been the 24th in major league history, and the first thrown this early either by calendar day or team game number.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that he would have been the first pitcher to throw a perfect game in his first start of the season. It also would have been the fourth perfect game in the past calendar year.

Instead, it’s another mark on the Darvish ledger, one that was particularly impressive at the end of last season. Dating back to last season, Darvish has a 2.05 ERA in his past nine regular-season starts.