ARLINGTON, Texas – Travis Blackley went nearly eight years between victories in the majors before being claimed off waivers by the Oakland Athletics.
The lefty now appears capable of winning every time he takes the mound.
Blackley picked off two runners and held a Texas lineup loaded with All-Stars to one run over seven innings Sunday night. The A's won 3-1 over Yu Darvish, the Japanese ace who lost at home for the first time despite 11 strikeouts.
"I was just happy that someone gave me an opportunity again," said Blackley, picked up by Oakland in mid-May. "I've kind of pitched myself into staying here. Being down there for too long at Triple-A, I just don't want to have to go back. So out of necessity, I've pitched well. I'm enjoying it here."
Darvish (10-5) threw a wild pitch that allowed the tiebreaking run to score in the sixth before Brandon Moss led off the next inning with a long homer.
The A's got Blackley after he was designated for assignment by San Francisco. He's 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA his last four starts, including a win June 15 against San Diego that was his first in the majors since July 1, 2004.
"For him to be pitching as well as he is at the big-league level is really a testament to a guy who has persevered," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It's good to see a guy who's gone through a lot and worked so hard and now having success."
The 29-year-old Blackley (2-2) was once a top pitching prospect for the Seattle Mariners, then made it the majors in 2004 before shoulder surgery and missing the entire 2005 season. Except for two starts for San Francisco in 2007, he hadn't been back in the majors until this year, pitching in his home country of Australia and then Korea before a minor league deal with the Giants this spring.
Blackley struck out three and scattered seven hits.
After Craig Gentry's leadoff double in the sixth and then a passed ball, Blackley got out of that inning retiring All-Star selections Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton on popups.
"He kind of mixed it up pretty good. We got a lot of guys on base, but we didn't get the base hit to score," said Andrus, whose RBI single in the third produced the only Texas run. "He threw a lot of breaking pitches, and kept us off-balance."
Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli, the three Rangers selected by the fans as All-Star starters, were a combined 0 for 9 against Blackley.
"Right now, I'm pretty confident in my pitches," Blackley said. "I have the confidence that I can go out there and throw strikes."
Ryan Cook, Oakland's only All-Star pick, worked a perfect ninth for his seventh save in 10 chances.
Fans will determine if Darvish gets to go the All-Star game with seven teammates and his manager. Left off the initial AL All-Star roster announced earlier Sunday, the right-hander is one of five pitchers for the final spot in online voting this week.
"Before tonight, winning those seven games at home, it's not like I pitched great every single time," Darvish said through his translator. "There's some games maybe I should have lost, but the hitters picked me up, the relievers picked me up. ... It's a very unfortunate loss."
The fifth 10-strikeout game for Darvish matched NL All-Star pitcher R.A. Dickey for the most in the majors this year. The 11 Ks equaled his season high for Darvish, who had been only the second major leaguer in a half-century to win his first seven career home starts.
Texas (50-30), still with the best record in the majors, had its five-game winning streak snapped. The Rangers have won seven consecutive series after winning the first three games against Oakland.
After Darvish got his 10th strikeout in the sixth, and before his 11th to end the inning, Yoenis Cespedes doubled down the right-field line before a wild pitch on a strange play that put Oakland up 2-1. The speedy Jemile Weeks, who reached on a fielder's choice, stopped at third.
Darvish then threw a pitch that bounced under the feet of a hopping batter Seth Smith and the mitt of catcher Yorvit Torrealba then bounced off umpire Manny Gonzalez and in front of the plate. Weeks slid home safely while Darvish unsuccessfully tried to scoop the ball with his glove toward the plate.
"His off-speed had been his go-to pitch and so I knew he was going to use it at some point during that at-bat," Weeks said. "I was looking for a down off-speed pitch, and if it kicked away, that's a big run against this team. So as soon as I seen it kick, I was gone. ... Any opportunity to score a run, you've got to take."
Notes: Moss hit the first pitch of the seventh into the second deck of seats in right field, his eighth homer. ... Oakland was the first team Darvish has faced three times, and has lost the last two against the AL West rival. ... The double by Gentry, the No. 9 hitter, was on a drive to straightaway center that bounced off the wall and then the foot of Cespedes. The ball went over the wall and umpires ruled it a double even though Gentry got to third.