HOUSTON -- Following the lead of teammate Yu Darvish, Texas right-hander Alexi Ogando delivered a sensational outing Wednesday, leading the Rangers to a 4-0 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Ogando (1-0) made his return to the rotation a glorious one, recording a career-best 10 strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings. He surrendered just four hits, half of them infield singles, and issued just one walk. Ogando worked almost exclusively out of the bullpen last season, making a career-high 58 relief appearances as one of the Rangers' setup men.
Against the Astros, Ogando showed no signs of stress in his new role. He surrendered a leadoff double to Jose Altuve in the bottom of the first inning to end all suspense that he would match the wondrous Darvish, who flirted with a perfect game Tuesday night. Ogando then proceeded to tear through the Astros order, striking out at least two batters in the first, second, fourth and fifth innings.
Aside from Altuve and Ronny Cedeno in the third, Ogando did not let a baserunner get into scoring position until Justin Maxwell reached on an infield single and advanced to second base on a J.D. Martinez groundout in the seventh. Four Texas relievers combined to complete the shutout.
Texas pitchers set a major league record by recording 43 strikeouts in the season-opening series, eclipsing the mark set by the 1966 Cleveland Indians. The Rangers won two of the three games.
If there is an early-season trend developing for the Astros, it is their prolific strikeout rate at the plate. After Texas left-hander Matt Harrison matched hits single-game standard for strikeouts with nine in the series opener Sunday night, Texas right-hander Yu Darvish surpassed his by amassing 14 strikeouts in his near-perfect performance Tuesday night.
By the close of the fifth inning, Ogando had done the same, punching out Astros shortstop Ronny Cedeno to record his ninth strikeout and eclipse his previous high of eight set on July 1, 2011, against the Marlins.
Right-hander Philip Humber pitched effectively in his Houston debut, carrying a shutout into the sixth inning before the Rangers loaded the bases with no outs. Nelson Cruz plated Lance Berkman with a double-play groundout, and before Humber could face Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who was 2-for-2 against him, reliever Wesley Wright entered. Pierzynski flied out to right field, and Texas settled for one run.
The Rangers extended the margin with a three-run, eighth-inning rally. Berkman drove in a run with a double, Cruz had an RBI singe, and Pierzynski hit a sacrifice fly.
NOTES: Darvish is now 5-0 with a 1.55 ERA over his last seven regular-season starts. During that span, he has recorded 63 strikeouts over 52 1/3 innings. ... Darvish became the first Texas pitcher to lose a no-hitter after 8 2/3 innings. Charlie Hough and Nolan Ryan (twice) lost no-hitters after 8 1/3 innings. ... The Astros have never had a no-hitter or perfect game thrown against them in Houston. ... Astros right-hander Alex White, an offseason acquisition from the Colorado Rockies, is seeking a second opinion from famed surgeon James Andrews following an MRI on his right elbow. White, who was placed on the 60-day disabled list last week, is likely headed for Tommy John surgery.