ARLINGTON, Texas -- In what was advertised as one of the best pitching duels of the young season between Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander, a slugfest erupted in the third inning between the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers on Thursday night.
The teams combined for 10 runs in the inning, and the Rangers scored seven times against Verlander en route to a 10-4 victory in the opener of a four-game series.
It was only the fourth time in Verlander's career that he did not pitch through three innings in a start and the seven runs were the most he had ever allowed in an inning. Verlander's night ended after working 2 2/3 innings and allowing six hits and eight earned runs.
Two bases-loaded walks by Verlander (4-4) tied the score at 3 in the third before Mitch Moreland pushed the Rangers into the lead with a two-run double to right. Geovany Soto capped the inning by sending a 2-1 pitch over the left-field wall for three more runs. .
"He's a tough one," Soto said. "He's not easy at all. We scored a few runs, (but) you can feel that he is still tough. You have to grind your bats against him. I was just trying to get good wood on the ball and it felt good."
On the other side, Darvish threw a career-high 130 pitches to pick up his seventh win of the season. A 36-pitch third inning matched Verlander's struggles, but Darvish escaped after giving up three runs despite having the bases loaded and one out.
"The thing about Darvish is that he bends but never breaks," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "After that third inning, he settled in and continued to pitch."
Don Kelly opened the Tigers' third with a home run to right before back-to-back singles and a wild pitch put runners on the corners. A sacrifice fly by Torii Hunter brought home Omar Infante, and the Rangers loaded the bases on a double by Miguel Cabrera and an intentional walk to Prince Fielder. Darvish worked around the threat, though, allowing a sacrifice fly before a popout to center ended the inning.
Detroit got to Darvish a final time to begin the fourth when Jhonny Peralta cut the Rangers' lead to 8-4 with the second leadoff homer in as many innings.
"I saw that we had a big lead but with the lineup they got there isn't a soft spot in it," Washington said. "I felt like we needed him to get through the eighth and give our bullpen a break."
Get through the eighth Darvish did. After allowing the leadoff homer in the fourth, Darvish retired 15 of the next 16 batters. The right-hander struck out two of his final six batters he faced and retired the side three innings in a row.
"Washington asked me if I could go longer," Darvish said of a visit from his skipper in the third. "He seemed like he wanted me to go longer and I felt good and wanted to keep going."
Darvish finished with six strikeouts and gave up a season-high seven hits in eight innings.
Moreland provided support for Darvish in the fifth with his second double of the game to score Lance Berkman from second. Moreland sent an 0-2 pitch deep into the left-center field gap.
"It's not a spot you want to be in," Moreland said. "I went up there and tried to battle and grind out an at-bat to make something happen. I've been able to do that lately and hopefully I can continue."
Moreland finished with a team-high three RBI. Nelson Cruz added a home run in the seventh to push his team-leading total to 11.
NOTES: Pitcher Evan Reed made his major-league debut for the Tigers on Thursday night after being called up earlier in the day from Triple-A Toledo. ... RHP Rick Porcello (1-2) will face Rangers RHP Nick Tepesch on Friday night. Porcello is 2-3 against the Rangers in his career. ... Texas has now won 13 of its last 14 series openers going back to 2012. ... Cory Burns made his Texas debut in the ninth after being called up from Triple-A Round Rock on Wednesday.