Rangers-Blue Jays Preview
The Texas Rangers have dropped out of the AL West lead for the first time in nearly seven weeks.
Not even Yu Darvish can ensure they'll get back there Saturday when he faces the Toronto Blue Jays.
After losing 6-1 in the series opener Friday, Texas (36-24) fell one-half game back of Oakland, which defeated the Chicago White Sox 4-3. The Rangers, who had been in first place since April 21, have scored three runs or fewer seven times during a 4-7 stretch.
"We're in a little funk right now as far as putting runs on the board," manager Ron Washington said.
Darvish (7-2, 2.77 ERA) will try to help Texas get back on track after allowing three hits over seven shutout innings but not receiving a decision in Sunday's 3-1 win over Kansas City. The Rangers' ace threw 99 pitches, his second-fewest this season.
Darvish said through an interpreter that he always get fatigued after going more than seven innings.
"He's a warrior. He got us into the seventh inning in a 1-0 ballgame," Washington told the Rangers' official website of Darvish, who averaged 115.7 pitches in his previous three outings. "... It just goes to show you right there, even when he's not at his best or feeling at his best, what he's capable of doing."
Mark Buehrle (2-4, 5.42) wasn't at his best in last Saturday's 4-3 loss at San Diego, surrendering four runs and a season-high 10 hits. Still, Saturday's scheduled starter got through at least six innings for the seventh consecutive outing.
"You're coming in knowing the bullpen is worn out and you want to go as deep as you can," said the left-hander, 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA in his last three starts. "But today was one of those days. I didn't have much."
Buehrle is doing a better job of keeping the ball in the park, yielding no homers in five starts after giving up nine in his previous four.
If Texas gets to him Saturday, the Blue Jays' bullpen is more than capable of getting outs. That group hasn't surrendered a run in five games this month, allowing five hits over 17 2-3 innings.
The Rangers could get a boost with leading home run hitter Nelson Cruz likely to return after an off day. Cruz, though, is hitless in nine at-bats off Buehrle, who is 12-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts against Texas.
Adrian Beltre, who had an RBI single Friday to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, is 9 for 27 with a homer and two doubles versus Buehrle.
Darvish has struggled with Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion, whose .625 average (5 for 8) off the right-hander is the best among players who have faced him more than seven times.
Encarnacion, tied for second in the AL with 17 homers, had two of the Blue Jays' three home runs off Darvish last season.
Melky Cabrera will get his first look at Darvish after recording half of Toronto's six hits Friday, including a solo homer and run-scoring single.
If catcher A.J. Pierzynski gets another start, he'll likely get his first at-bat against Buehrle - his White Sox teammate from 2005-11 - in a decade. Pierzynski is 8 for 20 in that matchup.
The Blue Jays (26-34) have won nine of 13 at home, and Texas has dropped six of seven on the road following an 8-1 stretch outside Arlington.