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Rangers' Darvish wins third straight start

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish (11) celebrates his victory with manager Ron Washington (38)
Yu Darvish (right) improves to 4-0 with his seven-inning, one-run performance.
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TORONTO (AP)

Yu Darvish acknowledged it felt strange to face the Blue Jays. That didn't stop him from shutting down their lineup.

HOW THE WEST WAS WON

Do the Rangers or Angels have the upper hand in the AL West chase?

Darvish won his third consecutive start, Mitch Moreland and Craig Gentry homered and the Texas Rangers beat Toronto 4-1 on Monday night.

Pitching against a Blue Jays team that reportedly pursued him when his rights went up for auction last December made Darvish (4-0) a little uneasy as he took the mound.

''Honestly, it was kind of an awkward feeling because rumor has it that this was a team that might have posted for me and there was some chance that I might have played for this team,'' Darvish said through a translator. ''Facing the Blue Jays, they could have been my teammates.''

Toronto might have wished that themselves on this night, scratching out just one run and four hits in seven innings against the Japanese sensation, the first starting pitcher in Rangers history to win four of his first five games.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell said Darvish was ''outstanding'' and ''as good as advertised,'' while Rangers skipper Ron Washington called him ''electric.''

''He had good stuff,'' Washington said. ''Once again, the most impressive thing about him was when he got people on the bag, he made pitches. That's what good pitchers do.''

Darvish allowed his first home run but remained unbeaten in five major league starts. He walked two and struck out nine.

''I don't expect him to go 32-0,'' Washington said, ''but the thing about him is he will keep us in ballgames, and that's what we want.''

In winning his past three starts, Darvish has allowed just two earned runs over 21 2/3 innings against Detroit, the New York Yankees and Toronto. His season ERA is 2.18.

''I'm very aware that all these hitters are seeing me for the first time,'' Darvish said. ''It's only April. So I'm not thinking about how I did this month or being satisfied. Right now all I'm thinking about is preparing well for the next start.''

Mike Adams worked the eighth and Joe Nathan finished for his sixth save in seven chances.

AL West-leading Texas won for the 17th time in April, matching the 1989 team for the second-most victories in the season's opening month. The Rangers won a record 18 April games in 1998.

GREAT AMERICAN RACE

The Junior Circuit is poised for epic AL pennant chases this season.

Texas slugger Josh Hamilton was held out of the lineup with a sore back. Hamilton, who leads the AL with nine home runs and 25 RBI, left Sunday night's loss to Tampa Bay in the third inning with back spasms. He is day to day.

Moreland and Gentry, the eighth and ninth hitters in Texas' lineup, swatted back-to-back solo shots off rookie left-hander Evan Crawford in the seventh, giving Darvish some extra cushion.

It was the third time this season the Rangers have hit consecutive home runs. Moreland's homer was his third while Gentry's drive was just his second in 213 career at-bats over parts of four seasons, and his first to clear the fence: His only other one was as an inside-the-park homer against Seattle last Sept. 23.

Texas opened the scoring in the second when Adrian Beltre led off with a double and scored one out later on a double by Nelson Cruz. The Rangers added one more in the third when Ian Kinsler drew a one-out walk and scored on Elvis Andrus' RBI double.

Darvish didn't allow a hit until the fourth but when he did, it was a big one. After being hit on the left elbow by a pitch in the second, Edwin Encarnacion responded by lining a two-out solo homer to left, his eighth of the year and fourth in four days.

SHOOTING STARS

These athletes burst onto the scene with great fanfare.

It's the second time in his career that Encarnacion has homered in four straight games, something he also did in the final four games of 2010. Following his leadoff single in the seventh, Encarnacion had reached safely in nine consecutive plate appearances dating to Saturday, recording five hits, walking twice and twice being hit by a pitch. The streak ended when he struck out in the ninth.

The hard-luck loser was Blue Jays right-hander Kyle Drabek, who dropped his second straight start. Drabek (2-2) yielded two runs and five hits in six innings. He walked two and struck out a career-high eight, including five straight during one stretch.

''I was able to command my fastball a lot better than the last two outings,'' Drabek said. ''I had my cutter working, that was probably my best pitch for me. Some hard-hit balls, but I'm happy with where my fastball command was at.''

NOTES: Darvish threw 97 pitches, 62 strikes. ... Kinsler's run in the third was his AL-leading 24th, setting a Rangers record for April. ... Citing Toronto's artificial turf, Washington started Beltre at DH, with Michael Young taking over at third base. ... The Blue Jays turned their major league-leading 31st double play. ... Attendance was 21,945.

Tagged: Rangers, Kyle Drabek, Blue Jays, Ian Kinsler, Edwin Encarnacion, Craig Gentry, Mitch Moreland

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