Few pitchers have ever been as dominant as Yu Darvish was in coming one out from history against the Houston Astros.
Anyone at Minute Maid Park — even the large swaths of Astros fans who found themselves cheering for the Texas Rangers ace in the end (you know who you are) — could see that. But the pitcher himself claims it's not true, bringing new definition to humble.
"I think I got lucky today," Darvish said after seeing Marwin Gonzalez end his bid to throw the 24th perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. "I pitched better against Kansas City last year."
"I think I got lucky today."
Try telling that to the Astros — or anyone else in baseball who became riveted by the scene at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night. As the outs piled up, as Darvish struck out five of the first six batters he faced and 14 overall, as he got the first two batters of the ninth inning out on only three pitches, it became clear to everyone that this was a craftsman at the very top of his game.
Well . . . clear to everyone, except maybe the 26-year-old Japanese pitcher pulling the strings — and often the chair out from under Bo Porter's befuddled Astros.
Darvish insisted he thought Astros left fielder Chris Carter had got him with a shot in the bottom of the sixth that was caught near the left field wall.
"I really thought that was a home run," he said.
It wasn't — and it was the only ball the Astros hit hard in the air all night. Rangers manager Ron Washington likes to say that Darvish throws 29 different pitches. Well, if you listen to new Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who was catching Darvish for the first time in a regular season game, all of those pitches were working against the Astros.
"It wasn't just his slider," Pierzynski said — after first complaining about how many interviews he had to do on this night. "Everyone is going to say it was his slider. But he had his fastball, his change up, his curve, his split . . ."
"My teammates were more disappointed than I was . . . A win is a win."
Pierzynski said he was "mad" Darvish didn't get the perfect game.
The humble ace? Not so much.
"I think my teammates were more disappointed than I was," Darvish said. "Even if I got the complete game it wouldn't have meant three or five more wins.
"A win is a win."
Except when it's this dominant from a pitcher the Rangers need to be one of the Top 5 in all of baseball to have a legitimate shot at getting back to another World Series. As the Rangers PR team rushed to set up a press conference in the Astros interview room, bringing in a portable Rangers background to cover up the Astros one on the wall — at least the part of the wall that would show up on TV — Darvish got a monster ice pack wrapped around his arm and patiently waited.
"I think I was relaxed," Darvish said later of his time on the mound, even the time after all his teammates started staying far away from him in the dugout starting in the fifth inning to keep with baseball's perfect game superstitions.
Relaxed, lucky — Darvish can use any descriptors he wants. Anyone there knew the real phrase of the night: Overpoweringly humble.