Rangers Avoid Sweep Defeat Rays 3-0 In Marquee Matchup

Duel Between Cobb & Darvish Lives Up To Billing

So often a game is billed as a pitchers duel and deteriorates into a local beer league softball game. Joe Maddon borrowed an old expression from Padres manager Bud Black to describe today’s pitching matchup between  Yu Darvish versus Alex Cobb as a “marquee matchup.”

Both Cobb and Darvish delivered a marquee performance on Sunday afternoon. Cobb went 7 scoreless innings allowing just three singles striking out six and walking one. He only allowed one runner,Donnie Murphy in the fifth inning. to reach second base.

Yu Darvish was nearly as good but had to do a bit more bobbing and weaving in his seven innings of work holding the Rays scoreless on seven hits striking out six and walking one.

Joel Peralta came in to work the eighth inning and retired the first two batters but he was unable to field Shin-Soo Choo‘s comebacker allowing him to reach first and bringing Elvis Andrus to the plate. Andrus worked the count full before launching his first homer of the year to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.

Alexi Ogando replaced Darvish in the 8th inning after giving up a leadoff single to Ben Zobrist he retired Evan Longoria and James Loney before walking Desmond Jennings. With lefty Matt Joyce due up Ron Washington countered with lefty Neal Cotts.

It was a chance at redemption for Cotts who allowed left hander James Loney to double in the tying and go-ahead runs in the same situation Saturday night – this time he responded by striking out Joyce to end the inning and preserve the 2-0 Rangers lead.

The Rangers added an insurance run in the top of the ninth. The inning started poorly as Adrian Beltre hit a grounder to Evan Longoria whose throw was offline allowing Beltre to reach. It was the first error for the Rays on the season.

Joakim Soria came in to face the Rays in the bottom of the ninth and retired them in order to earn his first save of the year. It was his first save since September 11, 2011.

Alex Rios singled to move Beltre to second but Lueke was able to induce the double play ball off the bat of Mitch Moreland with Beltre advancing to third. Donnie Murphy sent a ball toward the hole at short where Yunel Escobar stabbed it and made a strong throw to first but Murphy beat it out and Beltre scored to pus the Rangers lead to 2-0. Cesar Ramos came in to face Leonys Martin who grounded out to end the innning.

Both pitchers had impressive numbers on their side entering the game. In Darvish’s previous three starts against the Rays he holds a 2-0 record with a 1.35 ERA against the Rays including 22 strikeouts and 10 walks. He has held the current Rays roster to a .163 (7×43) batting average and hasn’t given up a home run.

Meanwhile  over Alex Cobbs‘  last 34 starts dating back to August 1, 2012 he has posted a record of 18-4 with a 2.97 ERA in 34 starts. He is coming off his first home loss since September 17, 2012 but had not lost consecutive games at home since July 1 through 21, 2012. 

Darvish was sidelined for much of the spring due to neck stiffness. He made his last Cactus League appearance on March 16th but did throw a 86 pitch simulated game on March 29th. If he there was any rust to knock off it wasn’t evident as he struck out David DeJesus and Wil Myers to begin the game.

The pair of strikeouts gave him 500 for his career and he became the quickest to reach that plateau in major league history doing it in 401.2 innings. The previous record was held by the Chicago Cubs Kerry Wood who accomplished the feat in 404.2 innings. 

The Rays were able to get at least one hit each inning but were unable to break through despite having golden opportunities in both the fifth,  sixth innings, and seventh innings.

In the fifth inning Ryan Hanigan walked and moved to third on a 1-out double by David DeJesus but Wil Myers popped out to first baseman Prince Fielder and Ben Zobrist flew out to left to end the inning.

Evan Longoria led off the bottom of the sixth with a double and made it to third with two outs but was stranded when Matt Joyce flew out to left to end the inning.

Ryan Hanigan led off the bottom of the seventh with a double and like Longoria made it to third with two outs but was stranded after Wil Myers grounded out to Prince Fielder to end the inning.

Alex Cobb was much more stingy than Darvish allowing only two singles through the first six frames allowing only one runner to reach second base.