Baseball: Darvish denied rare perfect game

The Texas Rangers' Japanese hurler Yu Darvish came within one out of pitching a rare perfect game on Tuesday, retiring 26 batters before surrendering a ninth-inning single to Houston's Marwin Gonzalez.

Darvish struck out 14 in a 7-0 victory, but his bid for a slice of Major League Baseball history was foiled by Gonzalez, who smacked a single up the middle that rolled between the pitcher's legs.

Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus couldn't stop it either, and with Gonzalez on base Darvish -- who had thrown 111 pitches -- was relieved by Michael Kirkman.

Ian Kinsler hit a two-run home run for Texas, who notched 12 hits.

Lance Berkman had two runs batted in while Nelson Cruz, Andrus and Mitch Moreland drove in a run each in Texas' first win of the fledgling season.

Darvish struck out nine of the first 12 batters he faced and baffled the Astros with a blistering fastball and an array of breaking balls.

He got valuable support in the fifth inning when Houston's Chris Carter led off with a fly to deep left that David Murphy caught against the wall.

The Astros' Rick Ankiel followed with a line drive that Moreland grabbed before Darvish struck out Justin Maxwell to end the inning.

It marked the ninth time in his first 30 Major League starts that Darvish has struck out at least 10 in a game.

In the bottom of the ninth, Darvish induced Jason Castro and Carlos Corporan to ground out before Gonazalez ended his night.

His narrow miss of the perfect game left Hideo Nomo, who did it twice, as the only Japanese-born pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the US Major Leagues.

There have been just 23 perfect games -- a victory in which no opposing player reaches base -- in Major League Baseball history.

A record three of them came last season. The Chicago White Sox's Philip Humber accomplished the feat on April 21 of last year against Seattle while San Francisco's Matt Cain pitched a perfect game against Houston on June 13. Felix Hernandez meanwhile tossed a perfect game for the Seattle Mariners against Tampa Bay on August 15.

Darvish became the first pitcher to miss out on a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning since Armando Galarraga on June 2, 2010.