OAKLAND, Calif. -- When the Texas Rangers return to Arlington on Thursday, they'll open a seven-game homestand with a dream pitching matchup that features two of baseball's marquee right-handers, Yu Darvish and the Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander.
Just don't expect Darvish to promote this showdown as if it were a heavyweight bout. Before Tuesday night's game against the Oakland Athletics, Darvish was asked if he's looking forward to this start against Verlander more than most.
"Not particularly, because I won't be hitting against him," Darvish said. "If that were the case, I'd be looking forward to it. I'm just going to be pitching, and I'm focused on pitching my game."
Darvish has had his A-game for most of this season. He's 6-1 with a 2.73 ERA and has won five straight decisions. He leads the major leagues in strikeouts with 80.
"The number of wins and the number of strikeouts, I'm not really concerned about," Darvish said. "That's something I have to look back to once the season's over. Since my ERA is not 0.00, that's what I have to improve on. I'm just making sure I'm healthy to throw for the rest of the season."
Darvish had a combined 31 strikeouts in his past three starts, wins over the Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros, but he also gave up five home runs. In his first five starts, he didn't allow a home run.
"There's no particular hitter I'm looking forward to facing," Darvish said. "I'm more concerned about managing the lineup and pitching my game and giving my team a chance to win. Every game I look forward to facing every hitter, but there's no particular hitter I'm concerned about now."
Running into trouble?: With the Rangers trailing the A's 5-1 in the top of the ninth Monday night, shortstop Elvis Andrus stole second base and tweaked his right hamstring. He stayed in the game and was in the starting lineup Tuesday night.
"In the cold weather, sometimes, the part of the hamstring that comes down and goes behind your knee, sometimes it stiffens up on him," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "When he slid yesterday he just felt it a little bit. He's playing. It was no issue."
Washington, though, did take issue with Andrus' decision to steal in that situation.
"When they're not paying attention, he took a shot there," Washington said. "But you got to be safe. You take all excuses away if you're not safe. I'd much rather see him stay there in that situation, but I didn't put the hold [sign] on."
Washington quickly told Andrus as much.
"When I got out there, I told him, 'Don't try to steal third. Stay there,'" Washington said.
Pierzynski update: Catcher A.J. Pierzynski took another step forward in his comeback from the strained right oblique muscle that landed him on the disabled list on May 10, retroactive to May 6. He took swings on the field during a soft-toss session.
"Well, he swung today and didn't have any issues, so we just got to see how he feels after he finished swinging and then we'll make arrangements according to that. Hopefully, everything is well, and when we get back to Texas he can take some BP [batting practice]."
Pierzynski is eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday, and Washington said he'll probably need one or two rehab games before then. Washington said it looks like he's on track to be activated Tuesday.
"That's what it looks like. Did some soft toss out on the field and looked good," Washington said. "I didn't see him holding back. Now we've got to see how he feels afterwards. It looked like he was getting through the ball fine."
More praise for Griffin: Washington, as he did after Monday night's loss to Oakland, had high praise for A's right-hander A.J. Griffin, who allowed one run on six hits and struck out eight -- four on called third strikes. Washington said Griffin had great stuff and also took advantage of plate umpire Lance Barksdale's generous strike zone.
"He had a good game last night. He had a good game, he really did. He recognized what the umpire was doing and he stayed with it, a la [former Atlanta Braves pitcher] Greg Maddux and [John] Smoltz and [Tom] Glavine," Washington said. "Recognize what they're doing and don't change it. He'd go off this far [off the plate], he'd call it. Go that far, if he'd call it, oh man, you got another plate over there to throw to. He was in tune last night. Tip your hat."
No rest for Beltre: Third baseman Adrian Beltre was in the lineup Tuesday for the 39th straight game. He's yet to get a night off this season, and he might not get one for some time, Washington said, even with a day game Wednesday following a night game.
"We got these guys, and we got Detroit," Washington said. "I don't see him coming out before then. Can't have that bat sitting on the bench against these guys and against Detroit. If I do anything with him, I'll talk him into DHing. He told me, 'Whatever you want to do skip, other than taking me out.' So I might get him to DH."
Washington said he'll probably give catcher Geovany Soto a day off Wednesday, which would put Robinson Chirinos in the starting lineup. A number of other Rangers regulars will probably get some rest Wednesday.
"I don't know exactly where else yet. We'll see how the night goes," Washington said.
Ticket booth: There are still around 12,500 tickets available for Thursday night's opener of a four-game series against Detroit at Rangers Ballpark, the team announced. There are around 7,000 tickets available for Friday's game, 3,000 for Saturday's game and 11,500 for Sunday's.