ARLINGTON – Yu Darvish worked out of jams, Ian Kinsler produced the Rangers’ first hit and the game’s only run with a solo shot in the fourth and the Texas Rangers went on to a 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Texas, which has won nine of its last 11, maintained a 5 ½-game lead in the American League West over Oakland, which beat Cleveland.
Darvish threw seven scoreless innings, scattering six hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts. It’s his eighth start with double-digit strikeouts, the most for a rookie in Rangers history.
More impressive, though, was his ability to escape jams, notably in the second and fourth.
In the second, Darvish walked Ben Zobrist and then gave up a double to Luke Scott as the Rays put runners at second and third with no outs. But Darvish ended that threat by striking out Carlos Pena, getting Ryan Roberts to fly out to shallow center and Jose Lobaton to ground out.
The Rays loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but Darvish got out of it by inducing an inning-ending double play grounder by Lobaton.
Darvish retired the final seven batters he faced, handing the game over to the backend of the bullpen. Mike Adams worked around a one-out single in the eighth, and Joe Nathan converted his 25th consecutive save opportunity by striking out the side in the ninth.
Escaping damage early was critical on a night the Rangers’ offense didn’t get much going against Rays starter James Shields.
Kinsler finally broke through by sending a 3-2 fastball over the left-field fence to start the fourth and that proved to be the difference in the game.
-- Drew Davison