HOUSTON (AP) — With every swing and miss, this looked as if it might be the day Yu Darvish pitched a no-hitter against the overmatched Houston Astros.
And then with one out in the eighth inning, Carlos Corporan ended Darvish's latest bid with a home run.
Darvish once again neared perfection versus Houston, striking out a career-high 15 and permitting only one hit in eight innings as the Texas Rangers won 2-1 Monday for their season-high eighth straight victory.
"A win's a win," Darvish said through a translator. "I'm just glad I was a big part of this win."
Texas won for the 13th time in 14 games and headed home atop the AL West.
In early April, Darvish (12-5) was one out away from a perfect game at Minute Maid Park before Marwin Gonzalez singled between his legs. Darvish joined Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers in team history to have more than one start of at least eight innings with one hit or less.
Darvish became the first pitcher to have two no-hitters broken up in the eighth inning or later since it happened to Justin Verlander in 2011.
Outfielder Alex Rios chased Corporan's drive to the wall, but had to watch as it sailed about five rows into the stands. Darvish simply looked around, and then wiped his brow with his arm before preparing to throw his next pitch.
"Well, I'd like to see it happen of course," manager Ron Washington said. "But those are professional hitters over there, too, and Corporan caught one."
Until the homer, Houston's lone runner came when rookie Jonathan Villar drew a two-out walk on a full count in the sixth. Texas catcher A.J. Pierzynski was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Ron Kulpa about a 2-2 breaking pitch he called low — Pierzynski was tossed after Villar walked.
"Was it a strike? I don't know," Pierzynski said. "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."
Darvish was perplexed by the actions of his catcher.
"When he got ejected, I thought, 'What is he doing?" Darvish said with a laugh.
The two-time All-Star ace from Japan was sharp all game, retiring the last two batters in eighth and exiting after increasing his major league-leading strikeout total to 207.
"He used everything today: slider, curveball, cutter, fastball," Washington said. "He moved it around, kept them off-balance. When they were looking for breaking balls he was throwing fastballs and cutters and when they were looking for cutters he was throwing breaking balls."
"I was pretty locked in," he said.
Darvish struck out 14 in four prior games this year, including his earlier gem at Houston. His 15 strikeouts on Monday matched his career-high from his professional career in Japan.