With Red Sox ace Jon Lester and Rangers phenomenon Yu Darvish expecting to get into a pitching prizefight, both teams knew runs would be at a premium.
In the final frame Sunday, the Rangers were able to put together a two-out rally to win it.
With runners on first and second, Adrian Beltre belted a single to right that scored Elvis Andrus and gave the Rangers a 4-3 win that completed the series sweep of the Sox.
The pitchers’ duel lived up to the billing.
For the second time this season, Darvish struck out 14 batters. Using his entire arsenal, he completely blew by his previous career-high of 123 pitches (set last year at Fenway). He fanned everyone in the Red Sox lineup at least once except for Jacoby Ellsbury. Outfielder Mike Carp was a three-time strikeout victim.
After giving up a two-run home run in the first inning to to David Ortiz (who flipped his bat dismissively as he admired his work) and a solo shot in the second to David Ross (four of Ross’s 9 hits are homers), Darvish seemed to get strong the more pitches he threw.
It worked the other way around for Lester.
For most of the afternoon, Lester was typically steady. He was the picture of efficiency through his first four innings, throwing just 55 pitches and facing just three batters over the minimum. Keeping the Rangers quiet outside of a solo Mitch Moreland homer in the second.
But he labored in his final two frames, throwing 60 pitches over the course of the fifth and sixth innings. By the time he ran into Nelson Cruz in the sixth, Lester had thrown 99 pitches. With a runner on, Cruz shot his 100th to the batter’s eye in center field to even things up.
With the win, the Rangers evened up with the Sox for the best record in baseball. The Sox, though, have been at least tied for first place every day of the season so far.