The Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki has easily been the most successful position player to move from Japan to the major leagues. Judging by how his rookie season is going so far, the Texas Rangers' Yu Darvish may be capable of becoming the top imported pitcher from Japan.
Darvish will try to add to his impressive start when he makes his first visit to Suzuki's home park, Safeco Field, and faces the Seattle Mariners for the second time Monday night.
With 10 All-Star game appearances, a bevy of 200-hit campaigns, and the 2001 AL MVP and Rookie of the Year awards under his belt, Suzuki appears destined to become the first Japanese-born player to enter the Hall of Fame.
While it's far too soon to tell if Darvish will join him in Cooperstown, the 25-year-old right-hander is off to a strong start with a 6-1 record and a 2.60 ERA through his first eight outings. He was dominant again in a 4-1 win over Oakland on Wednesday, yielding one run and four hits over 7 2-3 innings.
Darvish gave up five runs,eight hits and four walks over 5 2-3 innings in his major league debut against Seattle on April 9, but got credit for an 11-5 victory. Suzuki had two singles and a double off him in that game, and Kyle Seager drove in three runs for the Mariners.
Darvish hasn't given up five runs in any of his seven starts since.
"My first time I really wasn't able to display the type of pitching that I wanted to," Darvish said through a translator. "I think this time I'll probably have a better approach in pitching to these guys."
However, this time he'll face a team that's seeking a season high-tying fourth consecutive win after some solid pitching performances over the weekend in the usually treacherous Coors Field.
Seattle (19-24) gave up a total of seven runs during its three-game sweep of Colorado, and two of those didn't come until the ninth inning of Sunday's 6-4 win. Mike Carp hit his second homer in as many games and Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak also went deep to give their team an ample cushion.
The Mariners will now look for a better performance from Felix Hernandez (3-3, 3.02 ERA), who has allowed 12 runs and 21 hits while losing his last two starts. He was tagged for eight runs and 10 hits in 3 2-3 innings of Wednesday's 9-3 defeat at Cleveland.
"Felix just had an off-day," manager Eric Wedge told the Mariners' official website. "He's human. I think sometimes we forget about that."
The 2010 AL Cy Young award winner has had plenty of poor days in his recent matchups against the Rangers (26-16). He's posted a 5.04 ERA during four straight losses to Texas and gave up seven runs in 3 1-3 innings the last time he faced the Rangers, a 7-3 road loss Sept. 24.
Hernandez is 10-16 with a 4.03 ERA in 32 career games against Texas. He hasn't lost more than nine times to any other opponent.
The Rangers have won 19 of their last 24 matchups with Seattle and six of seven at Safeco, and arrive in the Emerald City with five wins in their last seven road games overall.
Nelson Cruz and starting pitcher Colby Lewis each hit two-run singles in the first inning of Sunday's 6-1 victory at Houston as the Rangers took two of three over the weekend.
Cruz was 1 for 8 with five strikeouts against Hernandez in 2011, but David Murphy went 5 for 9 and Elvis Andrus 5 for 12. Ian Kinsler added a pair of home runs off Hernandez last season.