ANAHEIM -- Three times this season Ron Washington has had personal meetings with Yu Darvish that the Rangers' manager believes have been mutually beneficial.
"Size of mound, slope, understanding umpires, catchers, game plan ... there [were] a lot of adjustments that guy had to make," Washington said of the Japanese right-hander, who goes against Zack Greinke in Thursday night's series finale against the Angels. "And at the same time, he was trying to please a lot of people -- a whole country.
"Our superstars are trying to please their team. I think he's done a [heckuva] job under the circumstances. He has a lot to deal with, and I'm glad it's behind him now. Now all he's got to think about is baseball. I think that's what he had in Japan -- just going out there and letting it fly."
A turning point for Darvish, in Washington's mind, came when he got knocked around by the Red Sox in Boston on Aug. 6, yielding six earned runs on 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Since that outing, Darvish has gone 4-1, with the Rangers winning five of his six starts. He has surrendered only 11 earned runs in 42 2/3 innings during that span, a 2.32 ERA. He has 51 strikeouts against 13 walks in the stretch.
"I think he figured it out in Boston when he got beaten around a little bit," Washington said. "He's been different ever since. His mindset, attitude, has changed."
One of their meetings came after that performance. Washington isn't sure if something he said connected with Darvish, but he believes the sessions have been productive.
"Each meeting was a learning experience for both of us," the manager said. "He opened up to me. Maybe I mentioned some things that clicked with him. Sometimes as a manager you've got to help a guy release it. Everybody talks so much about the negative. There's always good inside the bad if you look for it. I expressed the good."
Whatever he's doing, it seems to be working. Darvish's ERA has dropped from 4.57 to 4.02 since that pounding in Boston. The big guy has been dealing when it matters, down the stretch.
Napoli facing favorite foe during favorite month
ANAHEIM -- The snap is back in Mike Napoli's stroke. The Rangers' catcher showed how much better he's feeling by unloading a towering home run over the center-field wall against former teammate Jered Weaver early in Texas' 11-3 loss on Tuesday. Napoli singled in his next at-bat.
At Angel Stadium, nobody has ever gone deep with more frequency than Napoli -- once every 14.6 career at-bats. The names behind him on the list are impressive: Troy Glaus, Mo Vaughn, Reggie Jackson and Tim Salmon. Napoli has 57 homers in his former park in 830 at-bats. And what he has done to his old team falls under the heading of devastation.
"Nap seems to have some magic in this ballpark," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He gets energized here."
When the weather cools just a tad in September, Napoli goes to work. In his two seasons with Texas, he's hitting .430 in the month in 79 at-bats, with 10 homers and 23 RBIs in 24 games.
Since returning from the disabled list, having missed 33 games with a quad strain, Napoli is 4-for-9 with two homers and four RBIs. He was the designated hitter on Wednesday night with Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre unable to play.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Napoli said. "I've always enjoyed hitting here. This is where it all started."
Dealt with Juan Rivera to Toronto after the 2010 season, then shipped by the Blue Jays to Texas for reliever Frank Francisco, Napoli has punished his former club. He's hitting .400 with 10 homers in 29 games against the Angels. He owns a .800 slugging percentage and 1.304 OPS.
At Angel Stadium, he's hitting .424 in 16 games as a Ranger, with nine homers and 13 RBIs.
Adrian Beltre (abdominal pain) and Josh Hamilton (vision issues) were not in the Rangers' lineup for the middle game of the series, and their availability for Thursday's series finale is not known. Beltre remained at his L.A. home on Wednesday. The Angels have had reasonable success with both sluggers this season, holding Beltre to a .200 average and only one homer and six RBIs in 55 at-bats. Hamilton is hitting .267 against the Angels, with four homers and 11 RBIs in 60 at-bats.
Craig Gentry got the start in center field on Wednesday night against former Rangers starter C.J. Wilson. Gentry is hitting .526 against the Angels this season in 19 at-bats. First baseman Mitch Moreland is batting .375 against the Halos, and David Murphy is a .351 hitter against their staff. Also flourishing vs. the Angels is Elvis Andrus, hitting .339. Napoli leads the parade with his .463 average in 41 at-bats, including four homers and nine RBIs.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.