Rangers-Royals Preview

The Associated Press

Yu Darvish and Bruce Chen both have poor ERAs, but each was outstanding in his most recent outing.

These pitchers turned in scoreless efforts last week, and they meet Monday when the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals start a four-game set at Kauffman Stadium.

Darvish (13-9, 4.31 ERA) struck out 10 for the second consecutive outing and pitched seven innings Tuesday for a 1-0 home victory over Tampa Bay.

The right-hander has struck out at least 10 eight times in 24 starts. The only Ranger with more such efforts in a season was Nolan Ryan, with 18 in 1989.

"I'm not worried about the outside stuff, or even giving up walks," Darvish said through his interpreter. "I'm just pitching right now."

Although Darvish has struggled with a ratio of 4.77 walks per nine innings for one of the worst marks in the majors, he has walked only three over his last 14 innings heading into his first start against Kansas City (60-73).

The Rangers (79-54) will try to hand Chen (10-10, 5.13) his first home loss in nearly four months. The left-hander is 2-2 over nine appearances - five starts - against Texas with an 8.62 ERA, his highest against any opponent.

Those numbers made his May 14 outing in Arlington a surprising one, as he allowed one run over 6 2-3 innings and struck out seven to earn a 3-1 victory.

Although Chen's ERA places him among baseball's 10 worst qualifying pitchers, the Royals have won eight of his last nine home starts. He improved to 6-0 with a 3.69 ERA in that span after eight stellar innings Wednesday in a 1-0 victory over Detroit.

"He was sharp, he was extremely effective," manager Ned Yost said.

He gets another look at an offense producing a major league-best 5.16 runs per game, and one that was immediately boosted by teenage sensation Jurickson Profar.

The 19-year-old Profar went 2 for 4 with a homer in his big league debut Sunday in an 8-3 victory at Cleveland.

"I was just a little bit nervous, but I'm with a lot of great players, so I just went out and played," he said.

Profar, who homered in his first at-bat and doubled in his second, was a late substitute after second baseman Ian Kinsler was scratched with a stiff back. He became the youngest player to hit a homer since current teammate Adrian Beltre did it in 1998 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, also at age 19.

"It was a special day for a special kid," manager Ron Washington said.

Beltre went 8 for 14 with two homers over the weekend. He's hitting .433 with 19 RBIs in his last 17 games.

The Rangers have won 11 of 15 while capturing five straight series. They lead Oakland by three games in the AL West.

Kinsler is day to day. The second baseman's .329 average against Kansas City is his second-best mark against any AL club.

Tony Abreu had three hits and three RBIs in the Royals' 6-4 victory over Minnesota on Sunday. He's 11 for 32 since his Aug. 6 promotion from Triple-A Omaha.

"I mean he's hitting .300, but the majority of his hits have either tied ball games or given us the lead," Yost said. "He's done a great job for us."