HOUSTON -- A.J. Pierzynski made his way, slowly, over to Yu Darvish's locker, wearing a sheepish half-grin and looking up at the ceiling as if to say, "Seriously?"
The catcher patted his pitcher on the shoulder, the two exchanged a word or two and a smile, and that was the end of it. Pierzynski made his way to the lunchroom for a postgame meal, and Darvish was ushered to the Minute Maid Park interview room, where a few dozen reporters were waiting to talk about the perfect game that wasn't.
"Just, 'Sorry,'" Pierzynski recalled saying to Darvish during their brief exchange. "You get so close and not have it happen ... it's disappointing not only for me, but for him, for everybody. I'm sure for all the Japanese people, too. That was a big deal. He's their guy, and it stinks."
Ultimately, the outcome for the Rangers didn't stink. It was actually, by baseball standards, the very opposite of stink. The Rangers handily beat the Astros, 7-0, on a two-hitter during which Darvish struck out a career-high 14 batters. Elvis Andrus tripled twice, Lance Berkman logged three hits and the Rangers recorded their first win of the season.
In that respect, the scene in the Rangers' clubhouse was typical of a regular-season win. The music was at a healthy decibel. Players chatted among themselves. The mood was light.
But ... man.
"You get to that point, you think it's going to happen," Pierzynski said. "It's disappointing."
The "point" the catcher was referring to was a two-out situation in the ninth inning, with most of the 22,673 fans still there, riveted by possible history in the making. Darvish threw Marwin Gonzalez a cutter, and the Astros shortstop sent the ball right back to the mound, between Darvish's legs and into center field.
Base hit. Perfect game over.
Until then, the Astros looked overmatched against the Rangers' most-heralded pitcher. Darvish fanned nine of the first 12 batters he faced.
"He had everything going, obviously," Pierzynski said. "I guess that's kind of a dumb statement. He threw all seven of his pitches, he threw them all for strikes. He threw them all in different counts, he threw them up, down, in, out ... anyway you can throw a ball, he did it."
Darvish and Pierzynski appeared to be in perfect sync, with the pitcher rarely shaking off his catcher throughout the 111-pitch outing.
"He's got so many pitches that you can pick any one you want to throw at any time," Pierzynski said. "It's not like he has two pitches, this one or that one. I mean, you might want a 94-mile-an-hour split-finger instead of a 97-mile-an-hour fastball or a 60-mile-an-hour curveball. That's when it's difficult to get on the same page because he's got so many weapons."
The high strikeout total resulted in a high pitch count, higher than any manager cares to see his ace push himself to this early in the season. For that reason, it wasn't surprising when Ron Washington popped out of the dugout immediately to remove Darvish following the base hit.
From behind the plate, Pierzynski could only shake his head and marvel about how this one could have possible gotten away. For much of the night, this was a close game. The Rangers led only 1-0 through six, but when they scored two in each of the final three frames, Pierzynski relaxed a little and let himself think, briefly, about history possibly being made.
"You get to the ninth, you get some quick outs," he said. "You're kind of thinking, 'Hey, this is going to happen.'
"You're supposed to be happy after a two-hit shutout, winning 7-0, driving some guys home. You have a good feeling. But it's bittersweet, to say the least."
This wasn't Pierzynski's first brush with history. He's been behind the plate for two no-hitters -- current Astro Phillip Humber's perfect game with the White Sox last year, and Mark Buehrle's no-no in 2007.
So if there was any tension from behind the mask, it wasn't as if he didn't have experience properly channeling it. But, as the catcher said, there's no "magic formula" to get through it.
"That's what's so great about no-hitters and perfect games," he said. "You don't see them coming. They just happen. It's not like winning a World Series where there's kind of a build-up. It's just one night and it just happens. Unfortunately, you get so close and you don't get it ... it just happens. It's sad, but at the same time, we got our first win of the year."