With Red Sox ace Jon Lester and Rangers phenomenon Yu Darvish expecting to get into a pitching prizefight, both teams knew runs would be at a premium.
In the final frame, the Rangers were able to put together a two-out rally to win it.
With runners on first and second, Adrian Beltre belted a single to right that scored Elvis Andrus and gave the Rangers a 4-3 win that completed the series sweep of the Sox.
The pitcher's duel lived up the the billing.
For the second time this season, Darvish struck out 14 batters. Using his entire arsenal, he completely blew by his previous career-high of 123 pitches (set last year at Fenway). He fanned everyone in the Red Sox lineup at least once except for Jacoby Ellsbury. Outfielder Mike Carp was a three-time strikeout victim.
After giving up a two-run home run in the first inning to to David Ortiz (who flipped his bat dismissively as he admired his work) and a solo shot in the second to David Ross (four or Rossís 9 hits are homers), Darvish seemed to get strong the more pitches he threw.
It worked the other way around for Lester.
For most of the afternoon, Lester was typically steady. He was the picture of efficiency through his first four innings, throwing just 55 pitches and facing just three batters over the minimum. Keeping the Rangers quiet outside of a solo Mitch Moreland homer in the second.
But he labored in his final two frames, throwing 60 pitches over the course of the fifth and sixth innings. By the time he ran into Nelson Cruz in the sixth, Lester had thrown 99 pitches. With a runner on, Cruz shot his 100th to the batterís eye in center field to even things up.
With the win the Rangers evened up with the Sox for the best record in baseball. The Sox, though, have been at least tied for first place every day of the season so far.
End of the eighth, Red Sox 3, Rangers 3: Sox manager John Farrell acknowledged that the innings and appearances were piling up for Red Sox relievers.
But with everyone except Andrew Bailey he didn't shy away from any of the arms in the bullpen.
Kojie Uehara pitched a clean seventh. Junichi Tazawa threw one pitch to Nelson Cruz in the eighth, got him to pop up in foul territory, and then clocked out for the day. Andrew Miller struck out two to finish off the inning.
Now, both Joel Hanrahan and Clayton Mortensen are warming up.
End of the seventh, Red Sox 3, Rangers 3: Yu Darvish's complete disregard for the number of pitches he throws is astounding. He completely blew by his previous career-high of 123 (set last August in Boston), striking out Stephen Drew and Pedro Ciriaco to give him 14 for the day.
It's the second time in his first six starts that he's gone for 12 or more strikeouts. He's rung up 27 strikeouts in 45.2 innings.
The only person in the Red Sox lineup that managed to avoid catching a K was Jacoby Ellsbury. Everyone else went down at least once. Stephen drew was a three-time victim.
End of the sixth, Red Sox 3, Rangers 3:The odds weren't on Jon Lester's side with a runner on and Nelson Cruz at the plate. Cruz had been 7 of 19 against Lester with four extra-base hits and two RBIs.
Lester's pitch count wasn't helping him either. The at-bat was already seven pitches deep, and Lester had thrown 99 pitches altogether in the afternoon.
Cruz shot the 100th out to the batter's eye in center field.
Lester battled to get through the fifth, and after giving the homer, he struck out two of the next three Rangers to end the inning. He's gone at least six innings in five of his seven starts.
Meanwhile, at 104 pitches and counting Darvish is only getting better. He's at 12 strikeouts through six innings, and he's throwing a curveball that's absurd in both its slope and slowness.
End of the fifth, Red Sox 3, Rangers 1: When home plate umpire Brian Knight giving him nothing after what he thought was a strike on the outside corner to Elvis Andrus, Jon Lester lingered a while after his delivery.
Knight was right. The cutter was outside.
But it was a relatively long inning for Lester. He threw 28 pitches to five hitters and was looking for an exit to the frame, pitching to Andrus with two on and two out.
He went away two pitches later with a fastball on the corner that caught Andrus staring. It gave him five Ks for the day, and even though it's six fewer than Darvish's total, Lester's kept the Rangers in check for five innings.
End of the fourth, Red Sox 3, Rangers 1: Both pitchers are starting to settle into a rhythm.
Darvish, after giving up two early home runs, now has seven strikeouts (four swinging, three looking). Mike Carp's gone down both ways and after hitting that homer in the second, David Ross went down swinging as well.
Jon Lester's looking comfortable. He's allowed just three baserunners. Moreland, who homered in the third, is the only one to reach beyond second.
End of the third, Red Sox 3, Rangers 1: Mitch Moreland wasn't sure the ball he smacked to left of Jon Lester had enough to get out. He was so unsure, he held up at first until he was got the heads-up that he was free circle them up.
On the whole, Lester's been solid. He's throwing his fastball for strikes and keeping his pitch count down. He's struck out two through three innings. Moreland just got a hold of a cutter and it traveled.
End of the second, Red Sox 3, Rangers 0: David Ross dealt Darvish another shock to the system with crushing a 1-and-0 pitch to left. It's only the second time in Darvish's career that he's allowed two homers.
Ross is making home runs a habit. Four of his nine hits this season are deep balls.
End of the first, Red Sox 2, Rangers 0: The cocky flip of the bat probably said everything you need to know about David Ortiz's two-run homer.
As hot as anyone in baseball, Ortiz grooved a 3-and-1 Yu Darvish fastball to the corner in right then shot a look that said, "What's the fuss about?'
It was his fourth home run of the year. Ortiz's hit streak is now at 25 games going back to July. He's five games shy of the longest streak every by a designated hitter (30 games by Juan Gonzalez).
It was a weird inning for Darvish, who didn't start off any of the batters he faced witih a strike but still managed a pair of Ks.
Pregame: The Jon Lester-Yu Darvish matchup should obviously be interesting. Red Sox manager John Farrell saw Darvish a few times with the Blue Jays and said he was most impressed with the way Darvish varies his style from game to game.".
"We saw him early in the year where he was a more powerful fastball-splitter type of guy and then when we faced him down here, he used those breaking pitches a little bit more," Farrell said. "So I'm sure based on how he feels on a given day, it's a luxury to be able to have that assortment and be able to do the things he can do with a baseball. The numbers early in the season certainly bear that out. Very talented pitcher."
Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler has had his issues with Jon Lester. He's 5 of 23 all time against the lefty, and said consistency is Lester's greatest asset.
"Any pitcher that's successful over a long period of time is able to locate a lot of different pitches, and he does that," he said. "He commands his fastball, commands his cutter, his curveball. He'll mix in a changeup and when he's dialed in he can really throw any of those at any time and that's what makes a pitcher in this league really effective. Our goal is to try to get him early, be ready at any point throughout the at-bat and hopefully everything works out for us."
Don't expect a ton of runs. Do enjoy the pitcher's duel. Feel free to comment.