Yu Darvish was nearly unhittable in a dominant performance last week. The Texas Rangers may need continued strong showings as their disabled list has grown even more crowded.
Darvish tries to win a third consecutive start as the Rangers open a three-game home set against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.
Darvish (3-1, 2.33 ERA) had everything working last Friday, striking out 12 over 8 2-3 innings of an 8-0 win over Boston. The right-hander appeared to give up his first hit with two outs in the ninth inning, but was ultimately charged with two after Major League Baseball reversed the scoring on an earlier play that was originally ruled an error.
"That’s the best I’ve seen him pitch since he’s been here," manager Ron Washington told MLB’s official website. "If he keeps pitching like that, he’ll finally do it. He has the ability to do it, it’s just not easy to throw a no-hitter."
Darvish, third in the AL with 10.49 strikeouts per nine innings, threw 82 of his season-high 126 pitches for strikes.
"He was powerful, a lot of strikes, he never gave in, and four pitches working for him within the strike zone, it keeps him off-balance," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "But still, his slider is what makes him pretty special … then you get guys looking for it and he’s able to locate a fastball away from a couple of guys as well. That combination of being powerful and the secondary pitches and the assortment of them, ends up being a night like tonight."
Banged-up Texas hopes Darvish has many more such nights with left-handed starters Matt Harrison and Martin Perez going on the disabled list Wednesday, with both possibly out for extended periods. The Rangers have used 38 players – 22 of those who have pitched – this season.
While Darvish won his first two starts against the Blue Jays as a rookie in 2012, he’s since gone 0-1 in his last three despite a 2.57 ERA. Jose Bautista is 1 for 12 in their matchups, but Edwin Encarnacion is 5 for 12 with two homers.
The Rangers (20-21) have dropped 12 of 17 and have a losing record this late in a season for the first time since 2009. They had taken 15 consecutive series from Houston before losing two of three there this week, falling 5-4 in walkoff fashion Wednesday.
Winners of eight of 12, the Blue Jays (21-21) hit the road after taking two of three from Cleveland. Encarnacion went 3 for 4 with two homers and Juan Francisco also went deep in Thursday’s 4-2 victory.
"I feel great at the plate the last couple of weeks," said Encarnacion, hitting .333 with six homers and 13 RBIs over a 10-game stretch. "I’m very happy and very proud because I know when I feel like that I can help my team win a lot of games."
Toronto is hoping to see improvement from Drew Hutchison (1-3, 4.37), who is 0-3 with a 4.95 ERA in seven starts since winning his season debut April 1. The right-hander yielded three runs, three hits and a season-high four walks over 4 1-3 innings of Sunday’s 9-3 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels.
Hutchison owns a 3.13 ERA on the road compared to 7.24 at home. He surrendered six runs in as many innings in an 8-7 win over Texas on May 1, 2012 in his only appearance in the series.
First baseman Adam Lind went 13 for 30 with three homers and 10 RBIs as Toronto took six of seven from the Rangers last season, including all four meetings in Texas by a combined 24-4 score.