WASHINGTON — After getting pummeled by Washington in two straight games, the Texas Rangers were eager to stop the Nationals’ seemingly interminable parade around the bases.
Yu Darvish gave the Rangers just what they needed to avert a humbling sweep.
Darvish struck out 12 over eight innings, Leonys Martin broke open a scoreless duel with a homer in the seventh and Texas secured a 2-0 victory Sunday.
The Rangers won despite losing an apparent run in a rare double challenge on the same play. Managers Ron Washington of Texas and Matt Williams lodged separate complaints after a double steal in the first inning.
Pitching for the first time since May 22 after missing his last turn with a stiff neck, Darvish (5-2) gave up five hits and walked two in dropping his ERA to 2.08. The right-hander matched his season high in strikeouts and overpowered a club that won 9-2 on Friday and 10-2 Saturday.
“That team for two days just swung the bats at will, threw the ball around the ballpark, out of the ballpark,” Washington said. “We certainly needed to try to slow them down, and (Darvish) did that. He slowed them down. Yu was good today. He was very good. When the team needed him to be very good, he was.”
Joakim Soria worked a perfect ninth to earn his 11th save and seal Texas’ major league-leading 11th shutout.
Darvish struck out the side in the second and fanned two in each of the next three innings before encountering trouble in the sixth. One-out singles by Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche put runners at first and third before Darvish struck out Wilson Ramos and retired Ian Desmond on a deep fly to right field.
Darvish yielded a two-out walk in the seventh and left after a 1-2-3 eighth.
“We just needed Yu to pitch well,” Washington said, “and he pitched well.”