Yu Darvish showed no rust after missing three weeks.
Darvish allowed seven hits over seven innings in his season debut, Elvis Andrus hit a two-run homer, and the Texas Rangers avoided a three-game sweep by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0 on Sunday.
"He was in control of the game," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He was using his pitches. He was throwing strikes. And that's what he does."
Darvish (1-0) struck out six and walked one. Sidelined by neck stiffness, it was his first outing since a spring training game on March 16.
"I didn't feel anything unusual," Darvish said through an interpreter.
Darvish got his 500th career strikeout, coming in 401 2-3 innings, by fanning David DeJesus and Wil Myers in the first. According to the Rangers, it is the fewest innings for a starter to reach 500 strikeouts in major league history.
Andrus put the Rangers up 2-0 with his homer off Joel Peralta (0-1) in the eighth. Donnie Murphy made it 3-0 on an RBI infield during the ninth.
"He's going to get five a year, and today was one of them," Washington said of Andrus' homer. "It was huge. We needed it. Today, he drove the bus."
Neal Cotts replaced Alexi Ogando for the Rangers with two on and two outs in the eighth, and struck out Matt Joyce on a 3-2 pitch. Joakim Soria pitched the ninth for his first save.
Alex Cobb scattered three hits, walked one and struck out six in seven shutout innings for the Rays.
"Unfortunately for us, he was really on," Cobb said of Darvish.
Only one runner reached second against Cobb.
"He didn't give up any pitches," Andrus said. "I thought he was painting the whole game. I'm really glad that we had Yu out there. He was doing the same thing for us."
Tampa Bay had runners on second and third with one out in the fifth, but failed to score when Myers hit an infield pop fly and Ben Zobrist flew out.
Darvish got three consecutive outs after allowing Evan Longoria's double to lead off the sixth. He also worked out of a jam during the seventh after Ryan Hanigan hit a leadoff double.
"We just did not get the knocks when we needed it," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays were hitless in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position against Darvish, and 0 for 11 overall.
"As usual, you've got a team over there that fights forever," Washington said. "They put themselves in some good positions to score some runs, but Yu made the pitches when he had to."