ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Oakland rookie right-hander Dan Straily was well aware of the ace pitcher and the powerful lineup he was facing.
Now everyone can take notice of Straily, who on television before his latest start saw plenty of highlights touting Yu Darvish being on the mound.
Straily allowed only two two singles while facing 22 batters — just one over the minimum for his seven scoreless innings — and Yoenis Cespedes homered as the Athletics won their fifth straight game, 1-0 over the AL West-leading Texas Rangers and Darvish.
“My confidence was sky high to start the game,” Straily said. “The last few times out, I walked people, hit people, hurt myself. I wasn’t getting hit hard. I was hurting myself. The whole goal today was go out and fill up the strike zone.”
Darvish (7-2) struck out five, but walked three and hit a batter while giving up five hits in six innings. With the help of a couple of defensive plays, the only run he allowed came when Cespedes homered to straightaway center in the third.
Cespedes’ ninth homer went just beyond the reach of Craig Gentry’s outstretched glove. Darvish had turned and watched after the slugger took a big swing and connected.
“As soon as Cespedes hit that home run, I knew just keep it there, 1-0 our best chance,” Straily said.
“The best pitching performance we’ve seen out of him to date, in this ballpark, against a guy that’s probably not going to give up too many runs,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I think he just gained confidence as the game went along. Early in the game, he’s throwing strikes, he’s getting outs, they’re not hitting any balls hard really, and you just kind of grow from that.”
Darvish had won all five of his previous starts this season when pitching after a Texas loss. The ace from Japan had his last seven regular-season starts at Rangers Ballpark, going back to last season, and had entered the game getting a league-high 9.1 runs per nine innings pitched.
“I’ve been really pampered with all the run support I’ve been getting. You’re going to have games like this,” Darvish said through his translator.
Even with consecutive wins to start the three-game series, Oakland still trails the Rangers by 4½ games in the AL West. The Athletics go for a sweep on Wednesday.
Grant Balfour pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save in as many chances this season, and his 27th in a row since April 2012, to close out Oakland’s third shutout of the season. Sean Doolittle pitched a scoreless eighth for the A’s.
Texas was held scoreless for the third time this season.
It was only the 13th 1-0 game ever at Rangers Ballpark, which opened in 1994.
A.J. Pierzynski, the Rangers catcher activated from the disabled list earlier Tuesday, had a one-out single in the third. Jurickson Profar had a single in the sixth, but the rookie was caught stealing when he took off toward second base before Straily threw his pitch.
“I think this can be a jumping off point for him,” Doolittle said of Straily. “That was pretty impressive.”
After winning his season debut April 5 with 11 strikeouts at Houston, Straily was optioned to Triple-A the next day when Bartolo Colon was reinstated from the suspended list. Straily returned in late April, and was 0-2 with an 8.84 ERA in four starts since until dominating Texas.
“I’ve never lacked confidence, but this is definitely the most confident I’ve felt out there,” Straily said.
Darvish, who raised his majors-best strikeout total to 91 in 66 2-3 innings, came out after 101 pitches. He had averaged 121 pitches his last three starts, including a career-high 130 five nights earlier against Detroit in a 10-4 victory.
“I was as usual, nothing affected from the last outing,” Darvish said. “I really begged Wash. I wanted to keep pitching.”
Notes: Rangers reliever Neal Cotts got three outs on six pitches in his first major league appearance since May 25, 2009. Texas purchased his contract from Triple-A Round Rock earlier Tuesday. The 33-year-old left-hander had ligament replacement surgery in 2009. ... Oakland DH Jed Lowrie left the game with a bruise after fouling a pitch off his right foot. ... 1B Daric Barton, designated for assignment Saturday when A’s outfielder Chris Young came off the disabled list, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento. ... Right-hander Chris Resop also cleared waivers and was outrighted to Sacramento.