ARLINGTON -- Dan Straily and Sean Doolittle were just a pair of off-the-radar pitchers hanging around Double-A Midland at this time last year, the latter typically charting pitches from the bullpen for the former.
Both, of course, were revealed as anything but by season's end, with Straily getting a taste of the big leagues in the final two months, and Doolittle, well, dominating the big leagues in the final four.
On Tuesday, they combined for eight shutout innings in a 1-0 A's win -- the club's fifth straight -- over Yu Darvish and the Rangers, with Yoenis Cespedes' third-inning home run accounting for the game's lone run.
For Straily, who put together a gem of an outing with a career-high seven innings of two-hit ball, it was the best performance of his young career. Doolittle, owner of 10 1/3 consecutive shutout innings following a clean eighth, simply made sure Straily had the win to show for it.
"Seeing how Straily's pitched so far this year, versus how he pitched tonight," Doolittle said, "I really wanted to keep it right there for him, because he pitched such an outstanding game."
The difference really was that dramatic.
In his four previous starts since taking over for the injured Brett Anderson -- who will be sidelined for at least another month with a stress fracture in his right foot -- Straily walked 12 batters and surrendered 19 runs in just 19 1/3 innings. On Tuesday, he didn't issue any free passes, only reaching a three-ball count twice. He didn't allow a runner past first base and faced just one over the minimum, fanning five along the way.
"He was getting ahead early, throwing a lot of strikes," said catcher John Jaso. "I think this is kind of a good learning time, because he can have confidence in pounding the strike zone and getting really good hitters out by throwing quality strikes and trusting your stuff."
Add in the external factors -- pitching on the road, in the Rangers' park, with Darvish on the mound, against one of baseball's most feared lineups -- and what's already considered an impressive outing turns into something even greater.
"Obviously, Darvish is the star of the show over there, and I knew there would be a lot of quick innings from him, and coming in you know you need to throw up a lot of zeros to give your team a chance to win," said Straily. "As soon as Cespedes hit that home run, I knew I needed to keep it there.
"I won't say I've ever lacked confidence, but this was the most confident I ever felt out there."
"That's the guy that I've seen and heard so much about it, so it was really cool for him to do it on the road, in this ballpark, against a team that's been playing so well," Doolittle said. "I'm really happy for him.
"I would think, confidence-wise, this would be a jumping-off point for him, because he has all the stuff. Maybe tonight he showed himself that he belongs at this level and he can be a shutdown guy. Hopefully, tonight, he uses this as a starting point moving forward, because that was pretty impressive."
Straily needed just 88 pitches, 63 for strikes, before manager Bob Melvin elected to go with Doolittle for the eighth. Like clockwork, the southpaw compiled a scoreless inning before handing the ball to Grant Balfour.
Oakland's closer put together a scoreless ninth for his ninth save of the season. The right-hander has now converted his last 27 save chances dating back to last year.
For Darvish, it was just his third loss in 20 career starts at home, and the A's are responsible for two of them -- not that their offensive showing was one for the memory book, as they stranded 11 on base after leaving 15 on board in Monday's win.
But this wasn't their night to remember, anyway. It was Straily's.
"I feel like I was really myself out there," he said. "I don't know, it just felt different."
"I really think, looking back," Doolittle said, "this might have been his coming-out party."