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OAK@TEX: Darvish ties career-high with 11 strikeouts

SEATTLE -- Despite having plenty of rest going into his first All-Star Game, Yu Darvish didn't pitch in this year's Midsummer Classic.

When Darvish takes the mound against the Mariners on Saturday, it'll be his first start since a July 1 loss to the A's. He skipped a turn before the All-Star break, allowing an injured Derek Holland to return to the Rangers' rotation. Darvish, who was selected to the American League All-Star team by winning the Final Vote, threw bullpen sessions on Sunday and on Thursday, throwing 38 pitches in the latter.

"I expect him to come back strong and sustain it the rest of the way," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He needed a break, and we took the opportunity to give it to him. He should come out strong and feel fresh."

"We worked on the same thing we always work on, throwing strikes with everything," pitching coach Mike Maddux said.

Darvish was Washington's extra-innings option in last week's All-Star Game. Major League Baseball requires All-Star managers to designate a starting pitcher to potentially throw multiple innings in case the game goes into extras. Washington, managing his second straight All-Star Game, chose Darvish.

"Darvish was OK with it," Washington said. "Darvish is a class act. He's OK with anything that goes down. That's his mindset."

In his first big league season, Darvish has gone 10-5 with a 3.59 ERA and 117 strikeouts, the fourth-most in the AL. He gave up three runs in seven innings, striking out 11 and walking three in his last game, a 3-1 loss to the A's. It was Darvish's first defeat in four starts.

That game also marked just the sixth time in 16 starts the Rangers failed to score more than three runs behind Darvish.

Conversely, the Mariners have scored three runs or fewer in 10 of the 18 games Felix Hernandez has started this season, including his last. Hernandez gave up one run on six hits over 7 2/3 innings, getting a no-decision in a 2-1 loss to the A's on Sunday.

"Those guys are trying hard; they want to score runs," Hernandez said. "I believe in these guys. We're going to get better. It can't happen all the time, but we're going to be better."

Hernandez is 6-5 with a 3.13 ERA and 128 strikeouts, tied with fellow All-Stars Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander for the Major League lead.

The Mariners, who lost Friday's series opener, 3-2, have the Majors' second-worst batting average (.229) and worst on-base percentage (.291). There have been talks of making changes to help steer the offense in a different direction, but the Mariners did not make any roster moves over the All-Star break.

"We didn't want to make a change just to make a change," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "We've seen a little bit here and a little there with certain individuals that we felt it was more important to let them have the break, reflect and learn from everything they've done in the first half and let's see how we respond there early in the second half."

Rangers: Feliz nears return
Neftali Feliz, who has been on the disabled list since May 21 with right elbow inflammation, threw live batting practice to Alberto Gonzalez, Leonys Martin, Brandon Snyder and Mitch Moreland on Thursday. Moreland has been on the DL for the last three weeks with a strained left hamstring. Feliz is next scheduled to throw two innings in a rehab start with Triple-A Round Rock on Sunday.

"He threw the ball extremely well," Washington said. "He was free and easy and had good movement. His secondary stuff was really good. He's excited. He's come a lot faster than we expected."

In his first season as a full-time starter, Feliz has gone 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA. He is one of five Rangers pitchers currently on the DL. Colby Lewis (forearm tightness) set to be activated in time to start Wednesday against the A's, while Koji Uehara (strained lat) and Alexi Ogando (strained groin) are also on rehab assignments in Round Rock this weekend.

• Mike Napoli left Friday's game in the ninth inning with a bruised right quad. He was replaced by Yorvit Torrealba after going 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Napoli, who collided with Seattle's Miguel Olivo while being thrown out at home by left fielder Casper Wells to end the fifth inning on Friday, has four hits in his last 37 at-bats.

Mariners: Ackley stays in leadoff spot
Second baseman Dustin Ackley will remain in the leadoff spot and Ichiro Suzuki will bat second. Ackley, who went 0-for-5 on Friday, struck out with runners on the corners to end the game. He is hitting .258 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 29 games at the top of the Mariners order. When he's not batting leadoff, Ackley is a .213 hitter with two home runs and 10 RBIs 53 games.

"I like Ackley up there," Wedge said. "It's a good spot for him and our ballclub. And I'm hoping, with Ichiro, situationally maybe that helps him, too. Maybe that opens up a few more holes, which we know will help him. It's a different look for him, and we're just trying to get both those guys going."

• Mariners starting pitchers have posted a 2.59 ERA over their last 16 games, holding opposing hitters to a .220 batting average while striking out 8.9 batters per nine innings. The Mariners are 6-10 during the stretch. Kevin Millwood fell to 3-7 on Friday despite turning in a quality start. He gave up three runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out four and walking two.

Worth noting
• The Rangers improved to 23-14 (.622) all-time on Friday the 13th and have won seven of their last nine games on that day. The Mariners fell to 10-24 (.294) and have lost six of their last seven games on Friday the 13th.

• Holland, who tossed a shutout at Safeco Field to begin last year's second half, threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings on Friday in his second start since coming off the DL Saturday.

• Mariners first-round pick, catcher Mike Zunino, will make his professional debut on Saturday with Class A Everett.

• Ichiro's next home run will be the 100th of his career.

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