ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Sunday's marquee pitching matchup between Alex Cobb and Yu Darvish was everything the Rays and Rangers expected. But a reflex reaction and one misplaced pitch by reliever Joel Peralta brought the Rays' three-game winning streak to a screeching halt in a 3-0 Texas win.
After Cobb and Darvish had matched zeroes for the first seven innings, the Rangers' Shin-Soo Choo smacked a hard grounder up the middle with two outs in the eighth. Instinctively, Peralta leaped for the ball, which bounced off his glove for a base hit.
"If I would have let it go, we probably would have got him," Peralta said. "It was just a reaction. I missed it."
"The natural instinct is to do that," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "If he pulls back, the runner is out. That was unfortunate. But that happens sometimes."
Then, on a 3-2 count, the next batter, Elvis Andrus, belted a two-run homer to left for the game's first runs.
"The pitch was supposed to be down. But it was a little bit up," Peralta said.
"When you make a mistake, you're going to pay for it. That's the way this game is."
"One pitch to Andrus got us," Maddon said. "That happens sometimes. Two-out hits, two-out RBIs are very painful when they're against you."
Nevertheless, the Rays manager was not about to complain -- about Sunday's loss or the way his team performed during the first week of the season in which they went 4-3.
"We played good baseball, that's my takeaway," Maddon said. "If we keep playing like this, good things will happen. The vibe, the way they're acting, the preparation - everything is good. They're all going about their business well. I like the way our guys are playing baseball right now."
Cobb, who was admittedly eager to rebound from his first start of the season when he allowed four runs in five innings, did exactly that, shutting out the Rangers on three singles over the first seven innings.
He retired the first eight Rangers batters he faced, four of them via strikeouts, before J.P. Arencibia singled to left with two gone in the third inning.
"Both guys were outstanding. Cobber was really, really good," Maddon said. "Knowing how competitive he [Cobb] is, I know he wanted to outpitch him [Darvish] today."
Cobb struck out six and walked one before he was replaced by Peralta with the game still scoreless in the eighth.
"I wasn't really thinking about that [the match-up with Darvish] too much," Cobb said. "I wasn't too worried about what he was doing on his side of the ball. I try not to get caught up in things I can't control."
Cobb agreed with Maddon's assessment of the way the Rays are playing.
"As a team, everything is looking good," Cobb said. "It's exactly what we thought we had in spring training."
The Rays left 10 men on base and were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position, stranding runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
"We got guys out there, we just didn't get them in," Maddon said. "That's a tribute to their pitching. We did not get the knocks when we needed them."
The Rays threatened in the bottom of the fifth when Ryan Hanigan led off with a walk from Darvish and advanced to third when David DeJesus drilled a double to right field with one away. But Wil Myers popped to first and Ben Zobrist flied out to end the inning.;
The Rays also threatened in the sixth when Evan Longoria led off with a double to the deepest part of the ballpark, off the left-center field wall. However, James Loney, Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce failed to drive him home.
That double by Longoria was the 202nd of his career, tying him with B.J. Upton for second place on the Rays' all-time list. Carl Crawford holds the team record with 215 two-base hits.
Again in the seventh inning, the Rays' leadoff hitter reached base as Hanigan opened the inning with a double off Darvish. But again the Rays -- this time Yunel Escobar, DeJesus and Myers -- failed to bring their teammate home.
The Rays put runners on first and second with two out in the eighth. But Rangers manager Ron Washington brought in lefty Neal Cotts, who struck out Joyce.
Darvish, making his season debut after a brief stint on the disabled list because of a stiff neck, struck out the first two Rays he faced -- DeJesus and Myers. Those were the first two hitters he had faced since his Spring Training start on March 16.
Myers was Darvish's 500th career strikeout in 401 2/3 innings pitched -- a Major League record for a starting pitcher. The record was previously held by Kerry Wood, who recorded his 500th strikeout in 404 2/3 innings pitched in 2001.
"If I can have three weeks off between starts, I could pitch like this every time," Darvish said. "It seems like they are very aggressive so I tried not to overthrow and be very careful my my command. That was the key to my success. I was aggressive throwing strikes.
"I felt like I was pitching in Spring Training or any other game," Darvish said. "I didn't feel anything unusual."
Texas added an unearned run in the ninth when Adrian Beltre reached base on Longoria's throwing error -- the Rays' first error of the season -- and scored on Donnie Murphy's infield single.
The Rays were the last team in baseball to make an error this year.
"That part is definitely very cool," Maddon said of his team's defense. "The fact that we're playing that level of defense that we always talk about and that's a big part of our success.
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.