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HOU@TEX: Chirinos lines a walk-off single in the 12th

ARLINGTON -- As Yu Darvish cruised through the first five innings Friday night against the Astros, it appeared the Rangers might be able to celebrate something special when the game ended.
 
They did, but it wasn't the perfect game or no-hitter that looked to be materializing when Darvish retired the first 15 batters he faced. Instead, it was a hard-fought 1-0 victory in 12 innings at Globe Life Park -- the third consecutive home game the Rangers have won in walk-off fashion. Before Robinson Chirinos' game-winning single, it was the longest a game had remained scoreless in the history of the ballpark, which hosted its first game exactly 20 years ago Friday.

"They never lost focus," manager Ron Washington said of his team, which won despite leaving 16 runners on base. "So it was just a matter of, keep putting yourself in position. Our bullpen came in and did a good job and kept giving us an opportunity and we finally broke through. We had chances all night."

The Rangers stranded 13 runners in the sixth through 11th innings -- loading the bases in three of those frames and leaving men in scoring position in each of those six innings.

Finally, in the 12th, things fell into place for Texas. Kevin Kouzmanoff, the newest member of the Rangers roster, reached on a one-out single and scored on Chirinos' two-out liner to right field.

Darvish was long gone by then -- having departed after eight scoreless innings. He struck out nine, walked one and allowed only one hit, a single to Matt Dominguez to start the sixth inning.

"Overall I had really good control of my pitches and a lot of life in my fastball," Darvish said.

Darvish spent most of the early evening ahead in the count, going to two-strike counts in 11 of the first 15 at-bats. And Darvish, who has averaged nearly four walks per nine innings for his career, never took a batter to a three-ball count until he walked Jose Altuve in the seventh.

"He's commanding his fastball," Washington said of Darvish. "He's using it on both sides of the plate, all four quadrants of the plate. It makes a difference. He's still got other pitches that they didn't get to see a whole lot of tonight. It just goes to show you how good this guy can be. I wish we could have scored for him earlier, but it didn't happen. The bottom line is, the team got the win."

 Jason Frasor earned the victory with a scoreless top of the 12th for Texas. After Darvish left, the Rangers got a shutout inning each from Joakim Soria, Alexi Ogando, Neal Cotts and Frasor.

The game might have ended two innings earlier, when the Rangers loaded the bases with nobody out. All the Rangers needed to win was a reasonably deep fly ball or a ground ball through Astros manager Bo Porter's strategically-placed, five-man infield. Instead the Rangers grounded out to first, struck out and grounded out to first to ruin their best chance at scoring.
 
Astros starter Scott Feldman didn't dominate quite like Darvish, but Feldman breezed through six shutout innings before working out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh. Pitching with a heavy heart just two days after the death of his father, the former Rangers starter allowed only two hits in seven innings opposite Darvish.

"You never have much margin for error going against a guy like that," Feldman said. "Really no matter who you're facing, try to go out there and limit the damage and get as deep into the game as I could."

Friday marked Darvish's first start against the Astros this season. In his first start against Houston last year, the Japanese ace was marvelous, retiring the first 26 Astros hitters before Marwin Gonzalez broke up the perfect-game bid with a single up the middle.
 
Darvish entered Friday with a 4-1 career record against Houston, with a 2.72 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 43 innings over six starts.

"The approach has been the same," Darvish said of his success against the Astros. "I think it is just sheer luck -- but if I could pitch like this in every game that I pitched, it would be very nice."

Porter and his club, once again Darvish's victims, would obviously disagree.

"Probably the best part was when he left the game," Porter said. "You felt like, 'OK, let's take our shot at somebody else because he had our number pretty good.' It was pretty dominating stuff."

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