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TEX@TB: Darvish strikes out eight over eight innings

On Friday, the Rangers and Mariners open a three-game set in Texas. Two American League West foes facing off for one of the last times this season.

But the matchup is more than the two teams, it's also Japan vs. Japan.

Two Japanese rookies, Yu Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma, take the mound opposite each other for the first time in their Major League careers.

"We are friends and sometimes we get dinner together and sometimes we talk on the phone," Iwakuma said through interpreter Daisuke Sekiba. "I'm looking forward to pitching against him. Of course, it's fun waiting to face each other at the Major League level. In Japan, we played against each other a couple games. So we expect that, it's just now we're here."

For Darvish, the start will be just like any other.

"Just like when I faced [Hiroki] Kuroda early in the year, I don't feel any different than all my other starts," he said.

The two pitched against each other six times in the Japanese Pacific League and were teammates on the 2008 Olympic squad and 2009 World Baseball Classic team.

Rangers: Darvish closing in on 200 strikeouts
• At 196 strikeouts, Darvish is in prime position on Friday to become the 16th rookie to fan 200 since 1900. Dwight Gooden holds the rookie record with 276 in 1984.

"I had no idea what to expect as far as strikeouts," Darvish said. "I had no idea how many strikeouts I would get. In this game, it's not about getting the most strikeouts."

• Joe Nathan's career-high 31 straight converted save chances came to an end with a blown save on Thursday. Despite blowing the save, Nathan holds the club's longest single-season and overall streak.

Mariners: Plenty of success against Darvish
• The Mariners seem to have Darvish's number, scoring 16 runs in 16 innings in three games against the Japanese rookie.

"Darvish is more settled in now," manager Eric Wedge said. "We faced him early, and then again about the midpoint. We've seen him good. He has great stuff, he throws any pitch at any point in time. And, obviously, they're right in the thick of everything. It's always a great challenge when you face a pitcher of that ability. And he's having a great year."

Worth noting
• Josh Hamilton is expected to return to the Rangers lineup on Friday after getting an injection in his sore left knee on Thursday. Hamilton leads the Majors with 41 home runs and 121 RBIs.

• Mariners infielder Carlos Triunfel doubled to right in the ninth inning on Thursday to record his first Major League hit.

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