Rangers-Blue Jays Preview
By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- So far, Yu Darvish is living up to the hype.
The Texas Rangers may need him to continue doing that, especially if Josh Hamilton needs to miss any time.
With Hamilton's status uncertain, Darvish looks for another dominant performance Monday night as the Rangers open a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
Texas (16-6) acquired Darvish (3-0, 2.42 ERA) from Japan for a posting fee of $51.7 million in January, and signed him to a six-year, $60 million contract. The 6-foot-5 right-hander is thus far proving to be worth the investment, and may even be capable of living up to his own claim that he came to the majors to be the best pitcher in the world.
Darvish's latest outing was his best yet. He struck out 10 and scattered seven hits in 8 1-3 innings of a 2-0 win over the New York Yankees on Tuesday. He's allowed either one earned run or none in each of his last three starts.
"He just keeps getting better every time he takes the ball. (Tuesday), he used everything he had, and he was effective, very effective. He's getting more and more comfortable," manager Ron Washington said. "He was pounding the strike zone. That's what you have to do against that team. He threw everything but the kitchen sink at them."
Darvish will face Toronto (12-10) for the first time, as the Rangers attempt to rebound from Sunday's 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay that may have featured a greater blow than a mere defeat.
Hamilton, batting .395 with nine homers and 25 RBIs, exited after two innings with stiffness in his back after running from first to second on a forceout.
"It's no big deal," Washington said. "We'll see (Monday). If he feels better, he'll be out there. If not, we'll give him another day."
Michael Young, batting .329 on the season, may need to pick up the slack if Hamilton can't play. He's batting .480 with three RBIs and five runs scored in his last six meetings with the Blue Jays.
The Rangers are opening a 10-game trip, but seem perfectly comfortable away from Arlington. They're 8-1 on the road, where they're batting .333 with 15 homers and averaging 7.0 runs per game.
Toronto improved to 6-6 at home by taking the final two games of its weekend series with Seattle, 7-0 on Saturday and 7-2 in Sunday's finale.
Kyle Drabek (2-1, 2.25) takes the mound for the Jays looking to rebound from his first loss of the season.
The right-hander allowed two runs - both on solo homers - in six innings of Wednesday's 3-0 defeat at Baltimore. Toronto had won each of his previous three starts.
Drabek won his only previous meeting with the Rangers, a 6-4 victory at Texas on April 25, 2011, when he yielded three runs in six innings.
Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion is giving the Blue Jays some punch at the plate, tying a career high by homering in three straight games. Six of Encarnacion's team-leading seven homers have come at Rogers Centre, where he's batting .372.
Updated April 30, 2012