The fact that Yu Darvish called his last start "probably the worst outing" he has had all season is telling of just how successful he has been.
It has been a pretty good start to Brett Oberholtzer's career as a starter.
Oberholtzer tries to win for the third time in as many starts on Monday afternoon as he takes the hill for the Houston Astros for the finally of a four-game set with Darvish and the Texas Rangers.
The left-handed Oberholtzer allowed six runs over 7 1/3 total innings as a reliever in three appearances earlier this season before making the first two starts of his career on July 31 and Aug. 5 against Baltimore and Boston, respectively. He won both of those outings, hurling a combined 14 scoreless innings of seven-hit ball, striking out eight to two walks.
Oberholtzer is the first Astros hurler to ever pitch at least seven scoreless innings in his first two starts and the first in baseball since Marty Bystrom in 1980 for the Philadelphia Phillies.
The 24-year-old passed a big test last Monday, keeping Boston off the board for seven innings while allowing just four hits.
"I told myself before the game 'pound the strike zone, stay confident and take one pitch at a time,'" Oberholtzer said.
Oberholtzer faced the Rangers on July 5 and allowed a run over 3 1/3 innings.
For Darvish, he will face the Astros for the fourth time this season. He is 2-1 with a 3.32 earned run average over the first three, but allowed five runs in six innings of a loss to Houston on July 6.
The 26-year-old righty then landed on the disabled list due to a strained right shoulder, but has won two straight and three of four starts since his return.
After striking out 14 batters over seven innings to beat Arizona, Darvish notched an 8-3 win versus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Tuesday. He yielded three runs on a season-high eight hits, including two homers, with three walks. Darvish also fanned six in his seven innings.
"He didn't have his best stuff, but he found a way to make pitches when he had to," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
In 22 starts this season, Darvish is 11-5 with a 2.72 ERA.
Darvish will look to pitch the Rangers to their first ever four-game sweep of the Astros. Texas has dominated Houston this season, winning 10 of 12 matchups and going 8-1 at Minute Maid Park to win the Silver Boot for a seventh straight season.
Texas rode a complete-game effort from Martin Perez, the first of his career, in winning Sunday's meeting 6-1. Perez yielded just four hits and struck out a career-high eight batters. He was one out away from a shutout before serving up a homer to Chris Carter.
"He threw a lot of strikes out there today," Washington said. "He's good at keeping the ball down. He has good mechanics."
Alex Rios contributed again in his second game with the Rangers since coming over in a trade with the Chicago White Sox. He went 2-for-3 and drove in the go-ahead run in Saturday's win before logging another two hits, including an RBI double, and scoring twice on Sunday.
Texas pushed its season-high winning streak to seven straight games and leads Oakland by a game for first place in the AL West. The Rangers last won eight in a row from April 12-21 of last year.
The Astros, meanwhile, lost a fifth consecutive game and ninth in 10 outings despite a strong showing from Dallas Keuchel.
"I definitely think we were overaggressive. When you have a guy working at the pace (Perez) was working, it would be a good idea to slow it down and make him throw a little bit more pitches and get the pace of the game in your favor," said Astros manager Bo Porter. "But it felt like the more outs he recorded, the quicker our at-bats got."
Keuchel held the Rangers to a pair of runs over the first eight innings, retiring the first 13 batters faced, before faltering in the ninth. He ended up being charged with six runs -- five earned -- while fanning eight and being lifted after 8 2/3 innings.