ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish threw a cut fastball, then turned and watched the ball go over the wall.
That homer by Yoenis Cespedes was the only run Darvish and the Rangers allowed, but that was all the Oakland Athletics needed to win 1-0 behind seven scoreless innings by rookie pitcher Dan Straily.
“Initially, I didn’t think it was a home run,” Darvish said through his translator. “Being in this stadium, there was nothing you could do about it.”
Darvish had won his last seven regular-season starts at Rangers Ballpark, going back to last season. He had won all five of his previous starts this year when pitching after a Texas loss, and the right-hander from Japan was 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,” Darvish said. “You’re going to have games like this.”
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’ ninth homer went just beyond the reach of Craig Gentry’s outstretched glove.
“As soon as Cespedes hit that home run, I knew just keep it there, 1-0 our best chance,” Straily said.
Straily allowed only two singles while facing 22 batters — just one over the minimum for his seven scoreless innings. The right-hander struck out five as the A’s won their fifth straight game.
Even with consecutive wins to start the series, Oakland still trails the Rangers by 4½ games in the AL West. The Athletics go for a three-game 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.
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. A lot of you guys (media) talked so much about pitch count that he wanted to take me out.”
Washington, who has defended the recent high pitch counts, said Darvish was “ throwing 16 or 17 per inning. That was as far as I wanted him to take us.”
Elvis Andrus made a nifty play to end the fourth, when the shortstop was fully extended when he made a diving stab to catch the ball and then scrambled to his feet and threw out Chris Young at first. Darvish smiled and nodded at Andrus as they made their way to the dugout.
An inning later, after Darvish fielded a bunt by Adam Rosales, the pitcher turned and made a quick throw that went to the left-field side of second base. Andrus caught the ball while stepping on the base, then falling away from the base made a sidearm sling to get Rosales out at first — with a fully extended stretch by second baseman Profar covering the bag.
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,” Straily said. “But this is definitely the most confident I’ve felt out there.”
Notes: Rangers reliever Neal Cotts got three outs on six pitches in his first major league appearance since May 25, 2009. He struck out one and got two groundouts.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. ... Only one other time had an opponent won a 1-0 game at Rangers Ballpark with a solo homer, when Jim Leyritz hit one for the Los Angeles Angels on June 27, 2004.