St. Petersburg, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Yu Darvish tossed seven innings in his 2014 debut and the Texas Rangers avoided a three-game sweep with a 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Darvish (1-0), who began the season on the disabled list with neck stiffness, allowed seven hits and sidestepped a couple jams in the late stages of his outing to keep the game scoreless.
"He was using his pitches. He was throwing strikes. And that's what he does," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Darvish.
Elvis Andrus ended the stalemate with a two-out, two-run homer in the eighth inning.
Alex Cobb pitched well in the start for Tampa Bay, holding Texas to three singles with a walk and six strikeouts over seven frames.
The Rays had a runner in scoring position in three consecutive innings from the fifth against Darvish, but the Japanese right-hander worked out of trouble each time.
"We just did not get the knocks when we needed it," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.
Joel Peralta (0-1) relieved Cobb and had Shin-Soo Choo's two-out chopper go off his glove for a hit. Andrus followed with a blast to left field.
Tampa Bay mounted another threat in the eighth, but Rangers reliever Neal Cotts struck out Matt Joyce with two men aboard to end the inning.
The first error of the season by the Rays led to a ninth-inning run for Texas. Third baseman Evan Longoria made a high throw after fielding Adrian Beltre's grounder and Alex Rios followed with a single. After Mitch Moreland grounded into a double play, Donnie Murphy legged out an infield single to deep short to score Beltre.
Tampa Bay went down quietly in the bottom of the ninth, giving Joakim Soria his first save.
Darvish recorded five of his six strikeouts in the first two innings and set a major league record by reaching 500 career strikeouts in the fewest amount of innings. He accomplished the feat in 401 2/3 innings to supplant Kerry Wood, who did it in 404 2/3 innings ... Tampa Bay last swept Texas Aug. 16-18, 2010 at home ... The Rays were the last team to not have committed an error ... Pitcher Nick Martinez was optioned to Double-A Frisco to make room on the roster for Darvish.