The first time I really seriously started thinking no-hitter was after the fourth inning. I remember looking at the scoreboard and seeing the 0s in the Astros' row and thinking, Yu might have a chance. I also remember looking at Darvish's pitch count and thinking, there's no way he keeps his pitch count low enough to make it 9 innings.
The point where I really, truly believed that Yu Darvish was going to pitch a perfect game was in the bottom of the 8th inning. Chris Carter worked the count full, then fouled off a couple of balls. It was the third time Carter was seeing Darvish, he was seeing a bunch of pitches in the at bat, and it just felt like the type of long plate appearance where the hitter finally breaks through.
And instead, Darvish got Carter swinging. And when that happened, I just knew -- KNEW -- Darvish was going to finish the job.
Darvish got Rick Ankiel swinging after Carter, then finished off the inning by getting Justin Maxwell to ground out to short. And that left the bottom three hitters in the Astros lineup -- Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan, and Merwin Gonzalez. Three hitters that Yu Darvish was fully capable of handling.
Even with Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus leading off the 9th inning, I didn't want to see hits. I didn't want to see runs. I wanted the Rangers to go 1-2-3 as quickly as possible, so that Darvish could get back on the mound and finish the job.
Instead, Kinsler walked, Elvis tripled, Lance Berkman singled, and the Rangers stretched the lead to 7-0, meaning half-price Papa John's tomorrow, and making us wait that much longer for Darvish to come back out on the mound.
The atmosphere in the 9th inning was electric. My stomach was in a knot. Darvish induced Castro to ground out to Elvis, and then got Corporan to ground out to Kinsler. Neither play was difficult. It looked like he was going to make history.
And then, Merwin Gonzalez -- someone I'm pretty sure I had never heard of before today -- hit the first pitch from Darvish sharply up the middle. Yu had no chance to knock it down, and it bounded into center field for a base hit.
I don't know how to express the turmoil of emotions that I was grappling with. Disappointed, almost devastated, while at the same time thinking how silly it is to really be upset when the Rangers were up 7-0, and I'd witnessed one of the most impressive pitching performances in Ranger history.
After the single, Darvish got a round of applause from the fans, Ron Washington came out and got him, and Michael Kirkman recorded the final out. It would have been nice for Darvish to finish it up, but I get why he was pulled.
Darvish's final line was 8.2 innings pitched, 1 hit, 0 runs, 0 walks, and 14 strikeouts. He faced 27 batters, and three of them got the ball out of the infield. It was an incredible performance.
And what made it more special was getting to watch it with a collection of LSB peeps, a group of about 40 of us who were out on a patio above center field, giving us a great view of the game. It would have been awesome to celebrate a perfect game with everyone who was there, but it was still pretty awesome to get to share an incredible Darvish outing with the group.
Just a few notes about the offense...Elvis Andrus looked great, going 3 for 4 with a walk and a pair of triples. Craig Gentry had a double and a triple, Ian Kinsler had a single, a homer and a walk, Lance Berkman had three hits and a walk, and Nelson Cruz was 2 for 5, with one of his outs coming on a 400+ foot blast to left center that Justin Maxwell tracked down, but that would have been a homer in just about any other park.
The Rangers wasted some opportunities early, that had me worried that this was a game that they were going to let the Astros hang around in and possibly steal, but the Kinsler 7th inning homer pushed the lead from 1-0 to 3-0, and from that point on, the outcome never seemed to be in doubt.
Good grief. What a game.