The Los Angeles Angels were fortunate not to face Yu Darvish last week. However, they'll now catch the Texas ace coming off one of the best performances of his career.
Looking to help the visiting Rangers continue to surge without one of their star hitters, Darvish looks for a third straight winning start over the Angels on Tuesday night.
Since missing a little more than two weeks with a back strain, Darvish (10-5, 2.66 ERA) has allowed one run, 10 hits and struck out 29 over 19 1-3 innings while going 2-1. He matched his major league high with 14 strikeouts and yielded five hits without a walk in seven innings of a 7-1 victory over Arizona on Thursday in his 50th major league start.
"He was as good as I've seen him all year, counting the almost perfect game he threw the first start of the year. His stuff was just nasty,'' Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.
"He just kept mixing it up, and the strikeouts just kept coming and coming. Nights like that are fun.''
Darvish has fanned at least 10 batters 16 times in less than two seasons. With 20, Dwight Gooden is the only other pitcher since 1900 with more through his first 50 starts.
The right-hander is 5-1 with a 3.83 ERA and 65 strikeouts in eight starts versus Los Angeles (51-60), including 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 2013. Darvish, who missed the Angels when Texas swept them at Arlington last week, gave up three hits and fanned 11 in six scoreless innings of an 11-3 win at Anaheim on April 24.
The same day the Rangers (63-50) learned All-Star slugger Nelson Cruz received a 50-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, Adrian Beltre homered and Elvis Andrus had two RBIs in a 5-2 win at Los Angeles on Monday.
Winners in two straight and seven of eight since dropping 12 of 15, Texas is two games behind AL West-leading Oakland. The Rangers appear poised to succeed without Cruz, who leads the team with 27 homers and 76 RBIs.
"We're not going to stop putting runs on the board,'' manager Ron Washington said. "We've got to play the same way that we've always played - maybe with a little less power because Cruz isn't out there.''
Beltre is batting .406 with two homers and seven RBIs in eight games. He's hit .366 with three home runs this season versus Los Angeles, but is 1 for 6 with a homer against scheduled starter Garrett Richards (3-4, 4.18).
The right-hander has allowed two runs and seven hits in 12 innings over two starts since replacing Joe Blanton in the rotation July 27. He surrendered those runs and four hits in seven innings of an 8-2 victory over Toronto on Thursday.
"I'm trying to make the most of my opportunity right now," Richards told the Angels' official website.
The right-hander is 2-2 with a 4.26 ERA in six starts this season, and has a 4.76 ERA with no decisions in three versus Texas.
He won't have to face second baseman Howie Kendrick, who hyperextended his left knee trying to catch a popup in short right field Monday.
"Hopefully it'll only be a couple of days,'' Kendrick said.
Los Angeles' Mike Trout is 0 for 5 with a walk and three strikeouts against Darvish this season, but can set a record for Angels outfielders after he reached base for the 36th consecutive game Monday. He's batting .438 (14 for 32) with 18 walks in the last 11.
The Angels have lost two straight and eight of 11.