The Rangers and the Astros had a serious case of deja yu on Monday in Houston.
For the second time this season, Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish nearly no-hit the Astros. After coming within one out of a perfect game while facing the Astros in April, the 26-year-old righty carried a perfect game into the sixth and a no-hitter into the eighth inning this time around. Although he was once again foiled in his attempt to etch his name in the record books, Darvish did post a career-high 15 strikeouts.
As few things pique the interest of baseball fans like matinee no-hit bids that provide a distraction during business hours, Darvish became the center of attention on social media as he mowed down the hapless Astros on Monday. By the time Darvish's chance at a perfect game was ended in the sixth thanks in part to a controversial call on a two-strike breaking ball by home plate umpire Ron Kulpa that was followed by a walk, all eyes and Twitter timelines were on #Darvish.
"Was it a strike? I don't know," Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who was ejected arguing Kulpa's call, told reporters after the game, via The Associated Press. "Obviously I thought it was and Ron didn't, and I was upset we walked the guy and I said a bad word and I was ejected."
With the perfect game no longer possible, Darvish escaped the sixth without surrendering a hit. He then retired the side in order in the seventh. With one away in the home eighth and the Rangers leading 2-0, Carlos Corporan homered to end the no-hitter and the shutout.
The disturbance in Darvish's dominance could be felt throughout the Twitterspehere and a thousand tweets called out at once ... and then their authors presumably stopped watching a game involving the Astros.
With the no-hitter off the table and Kulpa off the hook, Rangers manager Ron Washington called on Joe Nathan to save the win. He did. Afterward, one of the foremost experts on being dominated by Darvish addressed reporters.
"He doesn't just have control. This guy has command," Houston manager Bo Porter told reporters. "He can throw every pitch the way he wants to throw it, even out of the strike zone. Which, when you have that kind of repertoire, you're going to be up against it."
Control? Check. Command? Check. Expansive repertoire? Check? No-Hitter? Not yet.
For those wondering, the Rangers are hosting the Astros next week and again during the final week of the regular season. Will Darvish get another shot? Will the third try be the charm?