The Texas Rangers may be comfortably leading the AL West, but that advantage could become greater if Yu Darvish can get back on track.
Darvish attempts to win for just the second time in over a month and rebound from perhaps his worst performance of the year when the Rangers open a three-game set against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Monday night.
Texas (63-44) is tied with New York for the best record in the AL, and leads the West by 5 1/2 games over second-place Oakland and six over third-place Los Angeles.
Improvement from Darvish (11-7, 4.38 ERA) might be just what the Rangers need to begin pulling away for a third straight division title.
The right-hander, an All-Star a month ago, is 1-3 with a 6.82 ERA, 39 strikeouts, 20 walks and three hit batters in 31 2-3 innings over his last five starts.
Darvish's struggles on the road date further back. He's dropped five of his last seven as the visitor with a 5.44 ERA after going 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in his first three - all Rangers victories.
His 70 walks are among the most in baseball.
"Command has always been the issue, not his stuff," manager Ron Washington said. "That's since he's been here. That's the one thing he's fighting. We're doing everything we can and he's doing everything he can. Sometimes it's a quick fix and sometimes it's not a quick fix."
Darvish's recent struggles continued Wednesday, matching season worsts of seven runs and six walks while striking out seven in five innings of an 11-10 win in 10 over the Angels.
"In general, I think I'm starting to maybe think about the walks too much, paying too much attention to not walking guys," Darvish told the team's official website. "I think that's getting into my head, kind of affecting my mentality.
"I think the next time, whether I walk 10 guys, not being afraid to walk guys, but giving my all and helping the team win, that's all I'm going to care about."
Darvish, facing the Red Sox (54-55) for the first time, will try to do that after Texas' four-game winning streak ended with Sunday's 7-6, 10-inning loss at Kansas City. Errors by Alberto Gonzalez and Mike Olt in a three-pitch span were responsible for the decisive run.
It's uncertain if Elvis Andrus will play after he was replaced by Gonzalez in the ninth due to a sore shoulder. The shortstop is 11 for 25 with seven RBIs in his last five games and 10 for 23 with nine runs and six walks in his last six at Fenway.
The Rangers have won six of eight versus Boston, which is trying to build on Sunday's 6-4 win over Minnesota that snapped a four-game skid.
"Hopefully it's the start of a long run," said Adrian Gonzalez, who had two hits with one homer and three RBIs against the Twins.
The first baseman is on a tear at home, batting .437 with five homers and 24 RBIs in 23 games. He went 1 for 11 while the Red Sox dropped two of three at Texas from July 23-25.
Aaron Cook (2-5, 5.24) is scheduled to take the mound against the Rangers for the first time, and he's 0-4 with a 5.79 ERA in his last five starts. He has a 9.00 ERA in losing his last three starts while giving up six home runs.
The right-hander was tagged for six runs and nine hits - two homers - in 4 2-3 innings of Wednesday's 7-5 loss to Detroit.
"I've been missing location with my pitches," Cook told the team's official website.