HOUSTON — Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish has experienced his fair share of memorable moments at Minute Maid Park, but Texas manager Jeff Banister isn't looking for Darvish to flirt with a perfect game when Texas attempts to claim the rubber match against the Astros on Sunday.
Darvish famously opened the 2013 season in Houston by retiring the first 26 batters before surrendering a seeing-eye single through the box to Marwin Gonzalez with two outs in the ninth inning. Darvish departed that 7-0 victory with 14 strikeouts and one hit allowed over 8 2/3 innings and is 4-3 with a 3.41 ERA in 10 career starts against Houston.
This season, Darvish (2-3, 3.29 ERA) is methodically working his way back from Tommy John surgery. He landed on the 15-day disabled list following his lone appearance against the Astros on June 8, surrendering one run on three hits and four walks with seven strikeouts in five innings before departing with tightness in his right shoulder.
Darvish has been good, not great, since returning from the DL. He lost Tuesday in Baltimore after allowing three solo home runs over 6 1/3 innings while walking just one batter and recording nine strikeouts.
“He needs to build on some of the things that he's been doing, what he did last outing,” Banister said of Darvish. “Obviously you take away the home runs … this is a special pitcher for us. We look for big things from Yu so give him an opportunity to go out there and pitch for us and give us an opportunity to get out of here with a couple wins.”
The Astros (57-53) counter Sunday with rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove, who makes his first career start after delivering a rousing debut Tuesday night against the organization that drafted him, the Toronto Blue Jays.
Musgrove pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out eight batters in relief to match a major league record. He faces Texas (64-47) needing to pitch effectively for a team feeling the pressure of an offensive collapse and a shot at a division title quickly slipping away.
That frustration bubbled over Saturday night when second baseman Jose Altuve earned a seventh-inning ejection arguing balls and strikes with plate umpire Alan Porter. Altuve has shown increasing frustration with varying umpires' strike zones of late and his emotions boiled over before manager A.J. Hinch could sprint in from the dugout.
“He knows the strike zone as well as anybody, and he didn't appreciate the call and took matters into his own hands,” Hinch said. “I think it symbolizes how important these games are and how much we are grinding mentally and physically to try to get the momentum back in our direction.
“He garners as much respect as anybody in the league. He never argues unless he is right. He was right in my opinion. I know Alan was giving him as much time as he could and ultimately decided to run him.”