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Yu Darvish hoping first-time success holds

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Perhaps the best part about facing the Tampa Bay Rays tonight for Yu Darvish is that they've never seen him. Darvish seems to baffle teams that have never seen his repertoire before.

The 25-year-old Japanese star is 8-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 11 starts when facing teams for the first time. He has struggled as teams get more looks at him. But Darvish comes into this start a little more rested and likely with some more confidence. He said his tight right quad, which caused him to miss his last start (even though he told the Rangers he could pitch if needed), feels fine and he's ready to go.

Tonight is also the night that the Rangers have a contingent from Japan, including a little league team. So by coincidence, Darvish will get to start with all of them in attendance.

As for the confidence, Darvish should have some after two consecutive quality starts. He's coming off a solid outing in Toronto, where he gave up three runs on three hits with 10 strikeouts and one walk.

"He's clear," manager Ron Washington said. "He's not dealing with issues as far as fighting himself. He understands what he has to go out there and do, and we totally believe that he will go out there and do just that."

Washington sees improvement in Darvish. He likes how he's made adjustments and has found some consistency recently.

"His last three outings in my opinion have been top quality," Washington said. "Even the one he lost in Toronto I thought he threw well. He's headed in the right direction."

Darvish threw several times in between his starts and the tight quad didn't keep him from doing his normal stuff in leading up to his start.