Dominguez, who was sent to the Minors just before the break ,ostensibly to stretch himself out for starting rotation duty, has been on a steady rise in five starts since rejoining the Rangers. The right-hander stayed on a roll Saturday night with his best outing yet, a two-hitter through 7 1/3 innings in Texas' 5-3 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Dominguez took a no-hitter into the seventh, but Emil Brown lined a clean single to center just as a buzz was beginning to build among the crowd of 18,932. The only other hit allowed by Dominguez was Aaron Guiel's double off the right-field wall in the eighth.
In his five starts since rejoining the Rangers, Dominguez is 3-1 with a 2.94 ERA. He has won his last three starts, compiling a 2.03 ERA over that span.
"I've been given an opportunity and every outing I'm working on getting better and getting stronger," Dominguez said through an interpreter. "I'm concentrating on the task at hand, pitch by pitch."
Dominguez had only one shaky moment. It came after Brown burst the no-hit bubble with the seventh-inning single. Dominguez walked Matt Stairs with a 5-0 lead and pitching coach Orel Hershiser came out to settle Dominguez down. Dominguez took a deep breath and got the next three men, with shortstop Michael Young making a superb play to his right on Justin Huber's slow roller for the final out of the inning.
"I kind of lost my focus [after the no-hitter was broken up]," Dominguez said. "I got a little mad at myself but then I was able to get back on track."
Dominguez isn't the only Rangers starter who's flourishing these days. Since the nightmarish 1-12 road trip that basically took Texas out of realistic playoff contention, the starters are 8-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 13 games.
As the Rangers plot their course for assembling the 2006 starting rotation, Dominguez is a guy who looks like he should be firmly in the mix.
Dominguez has plus-pitches with the fastball and changeup, and the breaking ball, while a work in progress, has begun to come along. The key, catcher Rod Barajas said, is for Dominguez to not be lulled into a false sense of security after the recent success.
"It can work both ways with Juan," catcher Rod Barajas said. "He has done well. He has turned into a mature baseball player. But it can also go in the other direction if he feels comfortable with where he is. It's up to us as teammates and coaches to let him know that even though he has done well it doesn't mean he can lay back.
"Juan has to keep pushing in the right direction because next year is going to be a big year for him. There's no reason why he can't be a guy who goes out there and starts 30 games for us."
The Rangers, who have won 10 of 13, had enough early offense to give Dominguez some margin for error. Hank Blalock's RBI double in the first and solo homers by Adrian Gonzalez and David Dellucci got Texas off and running.
Meanwhile, the Royals went hitless for the longest stretch since Jose Contreras pitched six no-hit innings against them on Oct. 3, 2004.
"Juan was sharp," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. "He has been pitching well for awhile now. It's good to see."
The only negative news for Texas was that the hot-hitting Barajas wasn't around to finish catching the Dominguez gem. Barajas had to leave after breaking a blood vessel in his index finger. The injury isn't believed to be serious and Barajas, who wasn't scheduled to catch on Sunday anyway, is listed as day-to-day.
Whether Barajas or Sandy Alomar Jr. was doing the catching, Dominguez breezed along.
"Juan's breaking ball is coming," Showalter said. "It's a lot better than it was. He showed a lot of poise and a lot of presence out there tonight."
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less