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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Yu Darvish was unable to pitch two years ago when the Texas Rangers had an even worse record at the All-Star break before going on to win the AL West title.
Darvish, the only Texas player who was at the All-Star Game this week, could now be going into his final stretch with the only MLB team so far for the right-hander from Japan. He can become a free agent after the season.
While in Miami this week, Darvish told reporters through an interpreter that he likes Texas, the only place he has lived in the United States since joining the Rangers before the 2012 season. But he also mentioned business, saying that liking Texas and getting a new contract are "two different things."
Already 16 1/2 games behind division-leading Houston, the Rangers (43-45) almost certainly won't win the AL West again this year -- they repeated as division champs in 2016 after Darvish returned from Tommy John surgery.
But they are within three games of a wild-card spot with the second half of the season beginning on Friday.
"Hopefully we have an amazing second half," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "We've done it before. ... We know what we have in the clubhouse to be in the postseason."
Texas was 42-46 at the break in 2015, but only six games behind the Los Angeles Angels before going 46-28 the rest of the way.
While these Rangers obviously have talent, they have been a model of inconsistency. They had a 10-game winning streak in mid-May, then lost 11 of their next 14. They dropped seven of 10 going into the break.
There are sub.-200 sluggers Joey Gallo and Mike Napoli, the team's top two players in home runs and strikeouts. But they're not the only ones striking out at a high rate. Texas has at least 10 strikeouts in 37 games, and matched an MLB record for a nine-inning game with 20 in Boston last month.
Darvish (6-8, 3.49 ERA) has an MLB-high 19 starts without much run support, while Cole Hamels (4-0, 3.51 in eight starts) missed almost two months with a right oblique strain.
Rangers relievers have an MLB-high 17 blown saves, matching their total from all of last season. The closer role is unsettled after since-traded Sam Dyson and hard-throwing Matt Bush both struggled.
After missing most of the first two months of his 20th MLB season with calf issues, Adrian Beltre has 36 hits in 35 games to get to 2,978 career hits. The third baseman could potentially reach 3,000 hits during the next home stand. They play their next 10 games on the road before nine in a row at home.
Darvish is nearing the end of his $56 million, six-year contract with Texas, which also had to pay $51,703,411 to his team in Japan. That salary is a relative bargain for a pitcher who is 52-38 over 119 major league starts with 937 strikeouts in 764 1-3 innings. Darvish, who turns 31 next month, will get a big payday -- and the Rangers certainly hope to keep him. Masahiro Tanaka signed a $155 million, seven-year contract when he left Japan for the New York Yankees in January 2014. Darvish is 1-6 in his last nine starts, but Texas has given him only 1.8 runs per nine innings in that span.
Andrus is only the 15th player since 1933 with 100 hits, 20 doubles, 20 steals and 50 RBIs before the All-Star break. He is hitting .300 and already has a career-best 11 homers. He also got married and became a father, missing two games last week for his son's birth -- the only time since his MLB debut as a 20-year-old shortstop in 2009 he was off the Rangers active roster.
AT DEADLINE AGAIN
Texas acquired two-time All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy at the non-waiver trade deadline last season, and could trade the potential free agent before the end of this month. "You realize you can become expendable," Lucroy said earlier this month. Robinson Chirinos, who has 12 homers, started seven of the last 12 games at catcher.