Yu Darvish is headed to his third straight All-Star game, but first the Texas Rangers hope he's healthy enough to make his next start.
They're confident the right-hander can do so Wednesday night as he tries to continue his success against the visiting Houston Astros, who can overtake the fourth-place Rangers by percentage points in the AL West with a series sweep.Darvish (8-4, 2.63 ERA) remains on track to pitch even after being struck in the head by a ball in a throwing session during batting practice prior to Texas' 8-3 loss Tuesday. He was examined by the team physician and stated "everything appears to be OK."The Rangers are expected to re-evaluate him prior to Wednesday's contest.Though Darvish is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in his last four starts, he's 1-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 33 strikeouts in his last three versus Houston (38-54). He allowed a hit and struck out nine in eight innings of a 1-0, 12-inning home win April 11.Losers in three straight, nine of 10 and 17 of 20, the Rangers (38-52) had won 24 of 27 over Houston before being outscored 33-14 during their four-game series slide. The only other time they were swept in a three-game set by the Astros was at home June 20-22, 2003."It's just nice to beat them this year," Houston's Chris Carter said.Carter homered twice and George Springer added a solo shot Tuesday for the Astros, who have won two in a row following their second seven-game losing streak and are one game behind the Rangers in the West.Except for a total of just 21 days, the Astros have been at the bottom of the five-team division since joining the AL prior to last season. The last time they were not alone or tied in last place was when they were 3-3 on April 6.Carter is batting .350 (7 for 20) with four homers and seven RBIs in his last five contests after going 3 for 38 in his previous 12. He's hit .381 in his last five versus Texas, but is 0 for 11 with seven strikeouts against Darvish.Teammate Jose Altuve had two hits to raise his AL-leading average to .341. Also the league leader with 41 stolen bases, Altuve matched a club record with his 28th consecutive steal without being caught.He's batting .419 in his last seven versus Texas, but is 2 for 17 against Darvish.Houston's Dallas Keuchel (8-5, 3.06) needs help to win the final internet vote for a spot on the All-Star team and hasn't looked deserving of the honor while going 0-2 with a 6.50 ERA in his last three starts -- all on the road.The left-hander allowed five runs and a career-high 13 hits in five innings while not factoring in the decision of a 7-6 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday."I haven't been too good as of late, so I guess I have to go back to the drawing board and figure some stuff out," Keuchel said.He was 0-2 with a 4.75 ERA in five starts against the Rangers before tossing a seven-hitter during an 8-0 home victory over Texas on May 13.Adrian Beltre is batting .378 during a 12-game hitting streak, and .391 (9 for 23) versus Houston in 2014. He's hit .313 (5 for 16) with three doubles against Keuchel since the start of last season.
The Astros are batting .176 in at-bats ending with sliders this season, which is the worst in the majors. Yu Darvish is allowing a .161 batting average against his slider this year, which is 54 points below the major league average among qualified pitchers. Darvish is throwing his slider on 22.2 percent of his pitches.