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The Texas Rangers are searching for a spark and the return of ace Yu Darvish could be just what they need. Darvish will come off the 15-day disabled list Monday and attempt to put the brakes on a four-game losing streak when the Rangers host the New York Yankees in the opener of a four-game series. Seven losses in eight games, punctuated by a three-game sweep at home by the Baltimore Orioles, dropped Texas three games behind first-place Oakland in the American League West.
The Yankees could also use a jolt but it won't be provided by Alex Rodriguez. The star third baseman was expected to make his season debut Monday, but an MRI exam on Sunday revealed that Rodriguez is suffering from a Grade 1 strain of his left quadriceps, putting him back on the shelf with no timetable for his return. Second baseman Robinson Cano is riding a 12-game hitting streak and left fielder Brett Gardner has back-to-back three-hit games.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, ESPN, YES (New York), FSN Southwest (Texas)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Yankees RH Ivan Nova (4-2, 3.63 ERA) vs. Rangers RH Yu Darvish (8-4, 3.02)
Nova has forced himself back into the starting rotation with a pair of stellar performances. He allowed one run over eight innings to beat Kansas City his last time out and tossed his first career complete game with a career-best 11 strikeouts in a win over Baltimore in his previous start. His only start in Texas was a gem - zero earned runs and two hits allowed over 7 1/3 innings in May 2011.
Darvish makes his first start since getting tagged for five runs in six innings by Houston on July 6. A victory over Detroit on May 16 boosted Darvish's record to 7-1, but he has struggled since with only one win in his last nine outings, including a no-decision at New York last month in which he gave up three runs in 5 1/3 innings. The Rangers have scored three runs or fewer in seven of Darvish's last nine starts.
1. The Rangers have scored two runs or fewer in six of their last eight games.
2. Yankees RF Ichiro Suzuki is 7-for-14 with a double and triple against Darvish, who is tied for the major-league lead with 157 strikeouts.
3. Gardner registered his 153rd and 154th career stolen bases Sunday, moving past Mickey Mantle into ninth place on the franchise's all-time list.
PREDICTION: Rangers 3, Yankees 2