If Yu Darvish is to remain undefeated in April during his young major league career, he likely must pitch better in Seattle than he did last year.
Despite a blister on his finger, the right-hander hopes to win his third straight start and avoid another rough outing at Safeco Field on Friday night as the Texas Rangers look to hand the Mariners a fourth straight defeat.
After coming within one out of a perfect game in his 2013 debut, Darvish (2-0, 1.98 ERA) allowed three runs and overcame four walks to last five innings in a 7-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday. He threw 85 pitches but was replaced because of a blister on his right ring finger that developed in the opener at Houston.
Darvish insists he's ready to go and manager Ron Washington apparently agrees.
"I looked at (Darvish's) hand, and he was smiling," Washington told the Rangers' official website. "It's amazing how skin heals."
Two games into his second season, Darvish is 6-0 with a 2.12 ERA in seven April starts. His career with Texas (7-3) began with a victory over Seattle despite allowing five runs in 5 2-3 innings.
Darvish is 2-2 with a 6.65 ERA against the Mariners (4-7), with both losses coming while posting a 9.58 ERA and 10 walks in 10 1-3 innings at Safeco Field.
For the second time in the majors, Darvish will start opposite fellow Japanese product Hisashi Iwakuma (1-0, 2.57).
Iwakuma allowed three runs on two homers and two other hits in eight innings of a 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. All four runs the right-hander has given up this season came via the long ball.
"Kuma was good again," manager Eric Wedge told the Mariners' official website. "For him to go eight innings this early in the season says a great deal."
He's 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA as a starter versus Texas, which scored three runs off Seattle ace Felix Hernandez and hung on for a 4-3 win Thursday. A.J. Pierzynski homered and blocked the plate to prevent Endy Chavez from scoring the tying run on a squeeze play in the eighth inning.
Pierzynski is hitting .367 with two homers in his first season in Texas.
Teammate Lance Berkman, who doubled, is batting .448.
Franklin Gutierrez homered and had two RBIs for the Mariners, who have been held to three or fewer runs in all but three games.
Gutierrez has two hits in 19 at-bats in the last six games - both left the park - after going 7 for 17 with two homers in the first five. He's hit .319 in his last 12 games against the Rangers, but has never faced Darvish.
Hours after Seattle placed outfielder Michael Saunders on the disabled list with a sprained right shoulder suffered in Wednesday's 8-3 loss to Houston, it announced that slugger Michael Morse could miss up to a week with a small fracture in the little finger of his right hand.
"I'm going to try and rehab this as best I can real quick,'' said Morse, who is batting .293 and is tied for the major league lead with six homers. "Might have to play through some pain.''