HOUSTON -- Yu Darvish missed one start in Spring Training because of a stiff neck and never threw more than 78 pitches in any outing. That's why the Rangers were hoping to get a maximum of 100 pitches out of him in his first start against the Astros on Tuesday night. A blister on his ring finger added to the concern.
The Rangers let Darvish throw 111 pitches only because he was chasing a perfect game. Once that quest ended, Darvish was removed from the game. The perfect game came to an end when Marwin Gonzalez singled with two outs in the ninth.
That's when manager Ron Washington pulled Darvish for Michael Kirkman. Washington also said he would have pulled Darvish if he had walked a batter instead of giving up a hit. Darvish was given pitch-count leeway for the perfect game but not a no-hitter.
"Once perfection was over, I was bringing in somebody else and hope they finished it for us," Washington said. "It was understood from the eighth inning on, a base hit and that was it. I kept the walk part to myself."
The Rangers said Darvish will stick to his routine and be ready to start on Sunday against the Angels. The blister is not expected to be a lingering problem.
Pitching coach Mike Maddux said Darvish was probably done after seven innings. Maddux said the most impressive thing about Darvish's performance was the ability to keep pitching after that point.
"He reached down when he was out of gas and had the ability to still make pitches," Maddux said. "Overall, the sharpness of everything he threw and the execution of his game plan were really good."
The Rangers were watching Darvish's pitch count all night. The one thing that allowed Darvish to stay in the game was he didn't have one particular inning where he threw a high number of pitches. His high for one inning was 18. If not for his setback in Spring Training, 111 pitches would not have been out of the ordinary for Darvish. He threw at least 110 pitches in 18 of 29 starts last season, with a high of 123.
"It's all about how you arrive at the number," Maddux said. "The innings weren't stressful. The situation was, but the innings weren't. He was in complete control, a pretty dominating performance.
"I thought it was very gritty. He was out of gas after seven, but he admitted the situation gets you to find that extra to pull you through it. The crowd was on his side. He said he was getting energy from the crowd."
Washington said he would not have let Darvish talk him out of pulling him from the game.
"No -- I don't understand Japanese," Washington said. "Once I come out of the dugout, that's it. Only two guys could talk me out of it ... [Kevin] Millwood and Cliff Lee. Everybody else has got to go."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.