Twins-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

Yu Darvish is going to the All-Star game, but he won't throw another pitch until then.

It'll be up to fellow rookie Martin Perez to help the AL West-leading Texas Rangers avoid their longest slide in more than a year as they open a three-game series with the visiting Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

This contest was originally scheduled to be started by Darvish, who Thursday won the fan vote for the final spot on the AL roster for Tuesday's All-Star game in Kansas City. He became the major league-high eighth member of the Rangers (50-33) headed to the Midsummer Classic.

One day before the final vote results were announced, manager Ron Washington had already opted to give Darvish some extra rest prior to the break.

"It was just trying to maximize Yu Darvish's ability," Washington told the Rangers' official website Wednesday. "A lot of it came with the drudgery of the schedule, him not experiencing this type of grind, and we just feel like we have to do what's best for him and what's best for us.

"We think him missing this one start, getting that time through the All-Star break and coming back will benefit him and the Texas Rangers."

Perez (1-0, 9.00 ERA) may have made Washington's decision easier Saturday in his first major league start. The 21-year-old left-hander allowed two runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-2 win over Oakland.

Perez's victory was also the most recent for the Rangers, who have dropped four in a row after Thursday's 2-1 defeat at Chicago. They haven't lost five straight since June 11-16, 2011, but their cushion over second-place Los Angeles is big enough to ensure they'll enter the break atop the West.

"We're in first place in the West. That's where we are," Washington said. "We lost three ballgames, but we're in first place in the West."

Washington's club is batting .214 average with one homer and eight total runs during its skid, after hitting .300 with 16 homers and 6.1 runs per game while winning 13 of its previous 15.

The Rangers may be facing the Twins (35-47) at an opportune time. They swept three games at Minnesota from April 13-15, as Josh Hamilton went 6 for 13 with two homers, three RBIs and five runs scored.

The Twins entered July 4 riding a season-high five-game winning streak, but have since dropped two straight at Detroit including a 7-3 defeat Thursday.

Minnesota will give the ball Friday to Francisco Liriano (2-7, 5.40), who tries again to win on the road for the first time this year.

The left-hander is 0-5 with a 5.91 ERA in nine appearances - six starts - away from home. He's pitched well in his last two road starts, allowing two runs over 12 2-3 innings, but only received one run of support between those outings and got saddled with an 0-1 record.

Overall, Liriano is 2-2 with a 2.95 ERA in seven starts since returning to the rotation following a stint in the bullpen.

"I feel strong," he said. "I feel pretty good; nothing's bothering me. My arm feels great."

Liriano, though, struggled with his command and threw a season-high 107 pitches in 5 1-3 innings while not getting a decision in a 10-8 win over Kansas City on Sunday. He allowed five runs, five hits, four walks and a hit batsman.

Hamilton is 2 for 10 with four strikeouts against Liriano.

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