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Darvish set for season debut vs. Rays
(Sports Network) - Japanese-born right-hander Yu Darvish comes off the disabled list to make his first start of the season Sunday when the Texas Rangers close out a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Darvish was shelved for two weeks after neck stiffness in spring training flared up on March 16 and has kept him from facing any live hitter since.
The Asian import was second in the American League's Cy Young Award voting last season after winning 13 games in 32 starts, posting a 2.83 earned run average and leading the majors with 277 strikeouts.
He's been outstanding in April throughout his brief stay in the big leagues, winning nine of 10 decisions and striking out 91 batters in 71 2/3 innings with a 2.26 ERA. In his first start of 2013, he came within a single out of a perfect game against Houston.
Additionally, he's 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three career starts against the Rays.
For Tampa Bay, third-year rotation member Alex Cobb makes his second start of 2014.
The right-hander was a 4-2 loser in his 2014 debut on Tuesday, when he was touched for four runs and walked four batters in five innings of a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
He's faced the Rangers three times in his career and won the lone decision while putting up a 3.79 ERA.
Cobb is 14-8 in 31 career starts at Tropicana Field.
On Saturday, the hosts won the middle test of this series in dramatic fashion, as James Loney hit a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Rays to a 5-4 triumph.
Matt Joyce also smacked a two-run homer for the Rays, who rallied from a 4-1 deficit.
Yunel Escobar celebrated a contract extension with Tampa Bay by belting a solo shot, while starter David Price gave up four runs on nine hits and struck out six over six innings.
Nick Martinez, making his major league debut, was in line for the win before Neal Cotts (0-1) gave up Loney's double that sailed over the head of left- fielder Shin-Soo Choo.
Cotts, tasked with protecting a 4-3 lead, walked Wil Myers to begin the eighth and intentionally gave Evan Longoria a free pass after a sacrifice bunt. Loney followed by sending the lefty's offering the opposite way to put the Rays on top.
Brandon Gomes (1-0) had tossed a 1-2-3 eighth for Tampa Bay, and Grant Balfour retired the Rangers in order in the ninth to pick up his first save of the season.
Texas split its eight matchups with the Rays last season.
04/06 10:14:38 ET