ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers returned home this week limping from a stretch of bad baseball that led to 12 losses in 15 games.
A four-game winning streak, capped Thursday with a dominant performance from their ace Thursday, turned things around for the Rangers as they prepare to hit the road for a showdown with the American League West-leading Oakland Athletics.
Yu Darvish matched a career high with 14 strikeouts and A.J. Pierzynski drove in three runs in the Rangers' 7-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday.
Darvish allowed five hits over seven scoreless innings and struck out 12 of the first 18 hitters he faced in helping the Rangers pull within 3 1/2 games of Oakland, which was idle.
"His stuff was just nasty," said his catcher, Pierzynski, who hit a solo home run in the second inning and a two-run single in the seventh.
"He was throwing fastballs to the corners, he had a really good split tonight and had a really good slider. He just kept mixing it up, and the strikeouts kept coming."
Darvish (10-5) has a major league best eight games with 10 strikeouts or more this season.
Through 50 career starts, Darvish has 16 games with double-digit strikeouts, second only to Dwight Gooden in baseball's modern era. Gooden had 20 such games in 1984-85.
Darvish's fourth career game with 14 strikeouts matched a career high.
"I was able to throw the pitch in the key situation," Darvish said. "I didn't think I was going to get this many strikeouts. My movement on my slider was really inconsistent ... some were going sideways.
"I think that worked in my favor."
Zeke Spruill (0-1) took the loss in his first major league start. He allowed five runs on seven hits in four innings.
Martin Prado, who went 2-for-4, accounted for Arizona's only run, an RBI single in the ninth off Joakim Soria.
Cody Ross, who also had two hits, singled and stole second base to lead off Arizona's half of the second, but Darvish struck out Prado, Jason Kubel and Didi Gregorius to end the inning.
Darvish went on to retire 11 straight hitters and 15 of 16 after Ross' base hit.
"He's got good movement on his ball, and he's got a lot of different pitches," Arizona's Adam Eaton, who struck out once against Darvish. "He was very effective in the zone with different pitches and hitting his spots. That's the recipe for a good outing for him."
Pierzynski led the Rangers' offense, going 3-for-4.
Leonys Martin had two RBIs, and the Rangers piled up 11 hits.
The Rangers lost seven of their first 10 games after the All-Star break, including being swept in a three-game series in Cleveland. However, Texas found life by winning three consecutive against the Los Angeles Angels earlier this week with three walk-off home runs.
"It was nice to come home and play well, especially after the road trip where a lot of things went wrong," Pierzynski said. "To have the three games against Anaheim was a great feeling ... but it was nice not to have to walk somebody off, and to kind of cruise to victory was fun."
Solo home runs by Pierzynski and Mitch Moreland in the second and third innings, respectively, gave the Rangers an early lead.
Texas broke the game open with three runs in the fourth, all with two outs.
David Murphy smacked a solo home run to left-center. Jurickson Profar kept the rally alive with a single to center, and Moreland was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second for Martin, who hit a two-run double to left-center. Martin was thrown out trying for a triple.
"We created a lot of opportunities and gave ourselves a lot of chances," Moreland said. "Playing like that as a team is good going into the road trip."
NOTES: Game-time temperature was 101 degrees, accompanied by a healthy dose of summer humidity. ... The game was a makeup of a rainout on May 29. ... Texas DH Lance Berkman, reportedly considering retirement because of a nagging hip injury, said before the game that he planned to stick it out this season. Berkman hopes to begin a rehabilitation assignment on Aug. 8 or Aug. 9, but that will depend on his progress. ... Arizona placed C Miguel Montero (lower back strain) on the 15-day disabled list and purchased the contract of Triple-A Reno C Tuffy Gosewisch, who made his major league debut and went 1-for-3. To make room on the roster for Spruill, the Diamondbacks optioned RHP Chaz Roe to Reno.