Yu Darvish is going to the All-Star game, but he won't throw another pitch until then.
It'll be up to fellow rookie Martin Perez to help the AL West-leading Texas Rangers avoid their longest slide in more than a year as they open a three-game series with the visiting Minnesota Twins on Friday night.
This contest was originally scheduled to be started by Darvish, who Thursday won the fan vote for the final spot on the AL roster for Tuesday's All-Star game in Kansas City. He became the major league-high eighth member of the Rangers (50-33) headed to the Midsummer Classic.
One day before the final vote results were announced, manager Ron Washington had already opted to give Darvish some extra rest prior to the break.
"It was just trying to maximize Yu Darvish 's ability," Washington told the Rangers' official website Wednesday. "A lot of it came with the drudgery of the schedule, him not experiencing this type of grind, and we just feel like we have to do what's best for him and what's best for us.
"We think him missing this one start, getting that time through the All-Star break and coming back will benefit him and the Texas Rangers ."
Perez (1-0, 9.00 ERA) may have made Washington's decision easier Saturday in his first major league start. The 21-year-old left-hander allowed two runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-2 win over Oakland.
Perez's victory was also the most recent for the Rangers, who have dropped four in a row after Thursday's 2-1 defeat at Chicago. They haven't lost five straight since June 11-16, 2011, but their cushion over second-place Los Angeles is big enough to ensure they'll enter the break atop the West.
"We're in first place in the West. That's where we are," Washington said. "We lost three ballgames, but we're in first place in the West."
Washington's club is batting .214 average with one homer and eight total runs during its skid, after hitting .300 with 16 homers and 6.1 runs per game while winning 13 of its previous 15.
The Rangers may be facing the Twins (35-47) at an opportune time. They swept three games at Minnesota from April 13-15, as Josh Hamilton went 6 for 13 with two homers, three RBIs and five runs scored.
The Twins entered July 4 riding a season-high five-game winning streak, but have since dropped two straight at Detroit including a 7-3 defeat Thursday.
Minnesota will give the ball Friday to Francisco Liriano (2-7, 5.40), who tries again to win on the road for the first time this year.
The left-hander is 0-5 with a 5.91 ERA in nine appearances - six starts - away from home. He's pitched well in his last two road starts, allowing two runs over 12 2-3 innings, but only received one run of support between those outings and got saddled with an 0-1 record.
Overall, Liriano is 2-2 with a 2.95 ERA in seven starts since returning to the rotation following a stint in the bullpen.
"I feel strong," he said. "I feel pretty good; nothing's bothering me. My arm feels great."
Liriano, though, struggled with his command and threw a season-high 107 pitches in 5 1-3 innings while not getting a decision in a 10-8 win over Kansas City on Sunday. He allowed five runs, five hits, four walks and a hit batsman.
Hamilton is 2 for 10 with four strikeouts against Liriano.
|June 24, 2012||Matt Capps||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 17, 2012||Matt Capps||Day-to-Day||Sore right shoulder|
|June 17, 2012||Joe Mauer||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right quadricep|
|June 16, 2012||Joe Mauer||Day-to-Day||Sore left hamstring|
|June 15, 2012||Justin Morneau||Day-to-Day||Left forearm injury|
|June 14, 2012||P.J. Walters||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 26, 2012||Mark Lowe||15-Day DL||Strained right intercostal muscle|
|June 24, 2012||Colby Lewis||15-Day DL||Right forearm tendinitis|
|June 24, 2012||Matt Harrison||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hip soreness|
|June 20, 2012||Mitch Moreland||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|June 16, 2012||Josh Hamilton||Day-to-Day||Intestinal virus|
|June 14, 2012||Koji Uehara||Day-to-Day||Strained right lat muscle|
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Back-to-back walks left Minnesota's Francisco Liriano with an unsightly six free passes and Ron Gardenhire with a decision to make in the seventh inning.
The Twins manager stuck with his teetering left-hander for one more batter, and Liriano responded with a strikeout that helped quell the final threat from a struggling Texas offense in Minnesota's 5-1 victory Friday night.
The loss was a season-high fifth straight for the AL West-leading Rangers. Star outfielder Josh Hamilton left early with back spasms and was listed as day-to-day.
Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau drove in two runs each for Minnesota, while Liriano (3-7) allowed five hits and one run with six strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings. The six walks were one shy of a career high.
"We just wanted Liriano to get through it," Gardenhire said. "Those are big moments for him. We trust him. We don't want to extend our bullpen too much, and he got a big out there."
First baseman Mike Napoli misplayed Josh Willingham 's two-out popup for a two-base error that cost the Rangers two runs while the Twins were building a 4-0 lead, but a potentially bigger error didn't affect the scoreboard.
Hamilton, the leading vote-getter for Tuesday's All-Star game, exited soon after misplaying Brian Dozier 's fly ball to left field for a three-base error and making a long throw from the warning track in the fifth inning. Hamilton said he first felt a twinge as he broke on the ball.
"I've iced it three times already. It feels a little better than it did," Hamilton said. "It kind of scared me when it first happened because I didn't know what to expect from a spasm like that. I had some weakness in my legs."
Mauer drove in his two runs on a single that scored the only earned run in a three-run third and a sacrifice fly in the fourth. Morneau had an RBI single in the third and hit his 11th home run on a line drive into the right-field seats off Tanner Scheppers in the seventh.
The best chance for Texas came in the sixth when Adrian Beltre singled, Michael Young walked and Nelson Cruz hit an RBI single. With no outs, Napoli deepened his slump by hitting into a double play, and the threat ended with one of three strikeouts by Yorvit Torrealba .
"I've been through that before," said Napoli, hitless in his past 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position. "It's part of the game. I'm just going to keep going."
The absence of Hamilton showed in the seventh when Liriano walked Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus back-to-back, bringing up Hamilton's replacement, rookie Leonys Martin . Gardenhire stuck with Liriano even after Rangers manager Ron Washington went to pinch-hitter Brandon Snyder . After Liriano struck out Snyder, reliever Jared Burton got Beltre on a flyout.
"I've been walking too many guys late in the game, but they have some good hitters, and I made some mistakes with those guys," Liriano said. "So I was just trying to keep my ball down, just try to get them out. If they don't swing, then just go on to the next batter and make my pitches."
The Rangers still have the best offense in baseball - statistically - but they've hit their second significant lull in the last month. Texas has scored two runs or fewer in four of the past five games after a similar drought in early June.
"We hit a funk," Washington said. "And the only way we can come out of it we have to keep grinding and play our way through it."
The Twins sent up eight batters in the third, but only because Napoli couldn't handle Willingham's easy two-out popup that landed untouched just inside the foul line behind first base. Mauer scored on the two-base error, and Morneau added another unearned run with a single that scored Willingham.
Rangers rookie left-hander Martin Perez (1-1) was solid in his second career start, allowing six hits and four runs - two earned - in six innings with three walks and three strikeouts.
"He certainly showed some heart," Washington said. "The pitches piled up after we didn't catch that popup, and I didn't think he would get into the fifth inning."
NOTES: This week's sweep by the Chicago White Sox was the first three-game sweep of the Rangers since June 14-16 last year against the Yankees. Texas had a major league-best streak of 52 straight series of three games or more without getting swept. ... Friday night's crowd of 47,240 was the Rangers' fourth straight sellout. It's the third time this year they've had a sellout streak of at least four games, the franchise record going into the season. ... The Twins had 15 hits in their 7-3 loss to the Tigers on Thursday. It was the first time they had that many hits in a loss since Sept. 25, 2010, also at Detroit. ... Sam Deduno will make his first major league start for the Twins on Saturday. He has 5 2-3 innings of big league experience with San Diego and Colorado. He will be the Twins' 11th starter, most in the majors.
Associated Press writer Sarah Kuta contributed to this report.