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TEX@SEA: Darvish talks about his upcoming start

It would be easy, not to mention wildly premature, to characterize Monday's pitching matchup between Felix Hernandez of the Mariners and the Rangers' Yu Darvish as a duel between the American League's once and future king.

Then again, who is to say it's not appropriate?

King Felix has been in the conversation about the top pitchers in the AL for several seasons now, going back to 2009, when he posted a 19-5 record with a 2.49 ERA and followed the next season by winning the Cy Young Award despite a 13-12 record but a 2.27 ERA.

Darvish, the Rangers' 25-year-old rookie phenom from Japan, has launched his Major League career in spectacular fashion this season with a 6-1 record and 2.60 ERA in his first eight starts.

Darvish made his first Major League start April 9 against the Mariners and got the win despite giving up five runs on eight hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings.

He would like to show the Mariners a little more of what makes him one of the more exciting players to come to the Major Leagues in recent years.

"The last time was tough," Darvish said. "This time I would like to show better to the Mariners."

This is the first time Darvish has pitched against a team that he has faced previously.

"He just needs to get ahead of hitters," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That ballpark [Safeco Field] will work in his favor, so it's important to let the hitters put the ball in play. You've got to be a mighty mite to hit the ball out of that ballpark. Or Josh Hamilton. If he's throwing strikes, making them hit the ball and not put them on the bags, I expect him to have a good outing."

Darvish was sharp in his last start Wednesday against the A's, working 7 2/3 innings and allowing one earned run and four hits while striking out seven in a 4-1 Rangers victory.

Hernandez (3-3, 3.02 ERA) has not pitched well in losing his last two starts.

The 26-year right-hander gave up four earned runs and was touched for 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings in a 6-2 loss to the Yankees on May 11 and gave up six earned runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings in a 9-3 loss to the Indians on Wednesday.

"Felix just had an off-day," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of his ace's last outing. "He's human. I think sometimes we forget about that."

"Everything was flat today," Hernandez said. "They got me pretty good. I fell behind a lot. When you fall behind you're in trouble."

Rangers: Young a familiar sight at the plate
• Michael Young has 406 at-bats at Safeco Field. That's the most by any opponent in Safeco history

• Darvish won 93 games in Japan, so he will be going for his 100th career professional victory Monday.

Mariners: Smoak coming alive
• Justin Smoak continues to show signs of emerging from his slump. Smoak was 2-for-4 with two RBIs in Sunday's 6-4 victory over the Rockies.

Smoak hit .351 (13-for-37) on the 10-game road trip, raising his batting average from .173 to .218.

Worth noting
• Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager was second in the AL in RBIs in May with 19, trailing only the Rangers' Hamilton. Seager was hitless Sunday and did not have an RBI while Hamilton picked up one in the Rangers' 6-1 victory over the Astros to up his total to 22.

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