ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cincinnati Reds late comeback bid fell short as they fell to the Texas Rangers, 3-2, on Sunday.
Texas (48-34) clinched its ninth home series of the year by taking the finale of a three-game set, the first meeting between the clubs in Arlington since 2002. A stretch of winning nine of 11 games secured a 14-14 June for the Rangers and sent Texas into July with a half-game lead in the American League West over Oakland.
Cincinnati (46-36) ended an eight-game road trip that saw the Reds winning just two. The Reds return home on Monday to begin a seven-game home stand.
After Yu Darvish blanked the Reds through 6 2/3 innings, Texas appeared to be cruising to its third shutout in four games before its bid was spoiled in the eighth.
Tanner Scheppers had trouble with his command, allowing a walk and back-to-back singles to give way to Neal Cotts. Cotts allowed two sacrifice flies before Jason Frasor entered with the score 3-2. Frasor escaped the scare, leaving a Cincinnati runner on third when pinch hitter Chris Heisey flied out to center.
Rangers' closer Joe Nathan picked up his 27th save of the year by working a perfect ninth.
The Reds had no answer for Darvish, who earned his first win in eight starts -- the longest stretch of his career without a win.
"As a starter, if the team doesn't win it is frustrating, but that is the only thing," Darvish said of his seven games without a win. "I had really good control of my fastball today. I changed up my delivery and conditioning and it contributed to my increased power."
Darvish (8-3) had at least a strikeout in each of the first six innings pitched and picked up two in the second after allowing a leadoff single.
The lone trouble Darvish found himself in came in the sixth when a walk and a single put runners on the corners. Mitch Moreland began a double play with a hard ground ball right at him to get out of the jam.
The right-hander admitted that he used his fast ball more in the game than he had in his previous few starts, an aspect of Darvish's approach that had been critiqued as of late.
"I just wanted to shut the people up who were talking about my fastball," Darvish said with a laugh. "Last year I was trying to absorb everything in what people were saying, but this year I am just trying to take the things that I think will work."
Darvish departed after increasing his MLB-leading strikeout total to 151 after eight punch outs.
"His performance was good today," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Darvish. "He was up against a good starter on the other side. Once he got some runs he did his job and kept them off the board."
The Reds' Mat Latos (7-2) matched the Rangers starter toe-to-toe through four and a half innings. Latos held the slight advantage with seven strikeouts compared to Darvish's six.
However, Latos ran into trouble when matched up against the Rangers eight and nine hitters to begin the bottom of the fifth.
Leonys Martin stretched out a double to shallow center-field to push Engel Beltre to third, who reached on a lead-off single.
Two batters later, Elvis Andrus laid down a pivotal suicide squeeze that was fielded by Latos just off the mound. His throw home bounced off the side of Beltre's head and to the backstop allowing two runs to score.
"I wasn't surprised by the attempt," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I didn't mind the situation but it was the second run that scored that hurt."
The damage was the first against Latos, as Texas had little to show for its previous four baserunners entering the inning.
Latos gave up a single by Nelson Cruz that scored Martin to give Texas a 3-0 lead at the time.
"It's easy to go back now and take a look at if we should have kept (Latos) in," Baker said. "But there is nothing you can do about it. He jammed him with a good pitch but (Cruz) got enough of it to put it into right field."
Latos finished with 6 2/3 innings and nine strikeouts.
NOTES: Reaching the halfway point in the season Saturday, Texas was in first in the American League West for the fourth consecutive year. ... Cincinnati tied its best record since 1995 after 81 games by going 46-35. ... The Reds filled Johnny Cueto's roster spot by recalling RHP Logan Ondrusek from Triple-A Louisville. Cueto was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to tightness in his right lat. ... Leonys Martin extended his hitting streak to 14 games in the fifth, matching Adrian Beltre for a team season-high.