Yu the man in Texas

Angels at Rangers, 8:05 p.m. EDT

The Texas Rangers’ Yu Darvish has mainly struggled in his three starts since the All-Star break but he had an effective performance against the Los Angeles Angels.

The right-hander will try to produce another such outing Wednesday night while denying the Angels their first three-game win streak in a little more than a month.

Darvish (11-7, 4.05 ERA) was among the final players to make the AL roster for the All-Star game but hasn’t pitched like one in two of his last three starts. He gave up a career-high seven runs at Seattle during his first start back from the break on July 14 and six over 6 1-3 innings to the Chicago White Sox on Friday, the most he’s allowed at home this season.

Darvish is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA over his last two starts in Arlington after winning each of his first seven.

“Overall it was not a good game,” he said through a translator.

Darvish had a better effort against the Angels (57-47) on July 21, giving up two runs and three hits over seven innings in a 9-2 road victory. He’s 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in three starts against Los Angeles and gave up three runs and three hits over 5 1-3 innings in his only matchup in Texas, a 10-3 victory May 11.

Darvish has stymied Albert Pujols in those outings, giving up one single in eight at-bats, but the Angels slugger will enter this game after hitting a pair of homers in a 6-2 victory Tuesday. Mike Trout, who homered for the second straight game, is 4 for 9 with one longball against Darvish and is hitting .442 against the Rangers (59-43) this season

Trout set an AL rookie record for home runs in July with 10 and tied a major league rookie mark with 32 runs scored in the month.

“I just went out there and played my game,” he said. “It’s being more comfortable out there.”

With Trout’s help, Los Angeles will try to continue cutting into Texas’ lead in the AL West by earning a third straight win for the first time since a four-game run June 24-28. The Rangers, 4-7 against the Angels this season, will attempt to avoid their first three-game skid since a season-high five consecutive defeats July 1-6.

Texas will make that attempt against Garrett Richards (3-2, 3.91) instead of Dan Haren, who is still dealing with stiffness in his right side.

Richards heads into this start after failing to follow up on a superb outing in Detroit on July 17. The right-hander tossed seven scoreless innings in that game but gave up four runs over five frames during a 4-1 loss to Kansas City last Tuesday.

“I’m going to go out and I’m going to pitch my game,” he told the team’s website. “I’m going to attack guys. I’m going to pitch in and get ahead early.”

Richards has no record and a 1.59 ERA in two career starts against the Rangers but threw only 19 pitches during the first of those on Aug. 15, 2011, before leaving with a strained groin.

Strasburg favored over Lee

Philadelphia (45-57) at Washington (61-40), 7:05 p.m. EDT

The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t been in last place this late in a season in nearly 10 years, finding themselves in an unfamiliar position at the non-waiver trade deadline after winning the last five NL East titles.

Stephen Strasburg and the division-leading Washington Nationals aren’t exactly used to their current standing, either.

Washington will send Strasburg to the mound Tuesday night seeking a 14th victory in the last 18 meetings with visiting Philadelphia, which may have a different look after the deadline.

The Phillies (45-57) haven’t finished below .500 since going 80-81 in 2002 and haven’t occupied the cellar of the East this late since Aug. 12 of that year. They are coming off being swept by Atlanta following Sunday’s 6-2 defeat, getting outscored 14-4 in the three-game series.

Philadelphia enters this three-game set trailing Washington by 16 1/2 games, and likely will be looking to make moves before the trade deadline, which will have passed by the time Strasburg takes the hill.

“I think where we’re at speaks for itself,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I guess there’s going to be a lot of thinking going on, evidently. We’ll wait and see.”

Shane Victorino, one subject of trade rumors, isn’t ready to move on.

“We’ve got 60 games. That’s my goal, to play 60 games here,” Victorino said. “I’m wearing a `P’ on my hat, `Phillies’ across my chest. I want it to be here.”

Washington, meanwhile, may be looking to make a move to bolster its chances of reaching the postseason for the first time since the Montreal Expos made the franchise’s only playoff appearance in 1981.

The Nationals (61-40) have won eight of nine after Sunday’s 11-10, 11-inning victory at Milwaukee. Michael Morse hit a tying two-run homer in the ninth, then drove in a pair of runs with a double in the 11th.

“It’s crazy because you never know what this game has in store until the last out,” Morse said.

Strasburg (11-4, 2.76 ERA) will look to keep Washington rolling.

The right-hander had his longest outing in more than a month Wednesday, allowing one run and four hits in seven innings of a 5-2 win over the New York Mets. Manager Davey Johnson was critical of his ace after he gave up four runs in 5 1-3 innings in Washington’s loss to Atlanta on July 20.

Strasburg responded with one of his more dominant outings, striking out 11.

“Once the lights are on and you’re facing another team, you want to go out there to make your stuff really dirty,” Strasburg said. “It’s something where I think when I take a step back and relax and let it happen instead of forcing the issue it helps out.”

Strasburg wasn’t at his best against the Phillies on May 4 when he allowed three runs in six innings, but the Nationals escaped with a 4-3 victory in 11 innings in the teams’ first meeting of the season.

Washington has won 13 of the last 17 matchups – a run that started with a 10-2 win over Cliff Lee on May 31, 2011.

Another subject of trade rumors, Lee (1-6, 3.95) is scheduled to take the hill again Tuesday after he tied career highs by allowing 12 hits and four homers while surrendering six runs over seven innings of Philadelphia’s 7-6 win over Milwaukee last Tuesday.

The left-hander had gone 1-1 with a 2.05 ERA in his previous three outings. He’s lost his last two starts with a 5.84 ERA versus Washington.

Nats shortstop Danny Espinosa, hitting .315 since the All-Star break, is 7 for 10 with three homers against Lee.

First place Dodgers host D’backs

Arizona (51-50) at Los Angeles (55-47), 10:10 p.m. EDT

The Los Angeles Dodgers are back in first place in the NL West. The Arizona Diamondbacks, though, aren’t going away.

The Dodgers open a three-game series at home against the Diamondbacks on Monday night.

Los Angeles swept San Francisco in a three-game series over the weekend, recording back-to-back shutouts, including a 4-0 win Sunday, to move into a tie with the Giants atop the division.

Besides climbing the standings, the two shutouts provided a measure of revenge for the Dodgers after they failed to score while being swept in a three-game series at AT&T Park in late June.

Los Angeles (56-47), which has won eight of 11, is looking good since the return of Matt Kemp and the addition of Hanley Ramirez, who was acquired from the Marlins last week and recorded his seventh RBI in five games Sunday.

While Ramirez is enjoying a change of scenery, Kemp has been solid since coming off the disabled list. He went 2 for 5 on Sunday after recording four hits Saturday and is batting .324 since returning from the DL.

“We understand this is our year. There’s no excuses,” said Clayton Kershaw, who earned his second shutout of the season Sunday. “Everybody’s doing everything they can to put us in the right place to win. We just have to go out there and play now.”

As well as the Dodgers played over the weekend, the Diamondbacks (51-51) lurk 4 1/2 games back. Arizona took three of four from Los Angeles earlier this month and is 5-4 in the season series.

The Diamondbacks begin a 10-game road trip Monday after settling for a split of four games at home with the New York Mets on Sunday, getting four-hit in a 5-1 defeat.

Arizona’s offense has been inconsistent recently, scoring two or fewer runs in three of the last five games. In the other two, it scored 11 and six, respectively.

The Diamondbacks will need more consistency to emerge successful on this road trip, which also includes visits to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

“We’ve got a rough road trip coming up,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “The Dodgers had a pretty good series this weekend and are going to be flying high in their park. It’s going to be very challenging.”

The Diamondbacks expect to have Chris Johnson available after picking him up in a trade with Houston on Sunday. He was hitting .279 with eight home runs and 41 RBIs in 92 games for the Astros this season.

He is 0 for 4 against Aaron Harang (7-5, 3.39 ERA), who looks to close out a solid month Monday.

The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.39 ERA in July. He gave up two runs and two hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 3-2, 12-inning victory over St. Louis on Wednesday.

Harang was charged with five runs and nine hits, including a home run, in 4 1-3 innings of an 8-7 win over Arizona on May 22, although he didn’t factor in the decision. He was opposed by Trevor Cahill (8-9, 3.86), whom he faces again.

Overall, Harang is 3-6 with a 2.42 ERA versus the Diamondbacks. He’s had trouble with several Arizona players, including Chris Young, who is 6 for 19 with three homers, and Lyle Overbay, who is 11 for 24 with five doubles.

Harang may not have much room for error as Cahill has gone 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA against the Dodgers. After receiving no decision opposite Harang in May, he gave up three runs and allowed two homers in seven innings of a 5-3 win July 7.

Cahill has lost four of his last six decisions overall and surrendered four runs in 6 2-3 innings in a 4-2 loss to Colorado on Wednesday.

Zambrano slumping

Washington (50-35) at Miami (42-45), 7:10 p.m. EDT

Carlos Zambrano’s teams have never lost seven straight of his starts over his 12-year career.

The Miami Marlins look to help Zambrano avoid that fate Monday night while also hoping their bats break out as they seek a four-game home split with the Washington Nationals.

Zambrano (4-7, 4.20 ERA) is 0-4 with an 8.00 ERA in his last six outings. It matches his longest career winless run with the Cubs from Aug. 3-Sept. 3, 2007, when he went 0-5 with an 8.29 ERA.

The right-hander is 7-2 with a 2.83 ERA in his last nine outings against Washington (51-35), going 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA in two this year. Steve Lombardozzi is 3 for 4 against Zambrano in 2012 while the Marlins starter has limited the trio of Danny Espinosa, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche to one hit in 17 at-bats.

Washington has outscored Miami 10-3 in winning two of three to start this series. Each Nationals starter has pitched six innings, with Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg turning in scoreless efforts in victories Friday and Sunday while Gio Gonzalez gave up two runs in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat.

Miami (42-46) is hitting .213 with two extra-base hits and 30 strikeouts in this series, going 4 for 26 with runners in scoring position. The Marlins were 1 for 13 in those situations Sunday in a 4-0 loss to Strasburg.

“That’s the reason why we lost,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “We had golden opportunities and one of the best pitchers in the game against the ropes and we didn’t take advantage.”

Emilio Bonifacio is 2 for 9, Hanley Ramirez 2 for 11, Omar Infante 1 for 11 and Logan Morrison 1 for 8 in this series.

Those struggling hitters will face Edwin Jackson (5-4, 3.73), who is 1-4 with a 5.33 ERA in five career starts against the Marlins. Jackson pitched well in his lone 2012 outing against them, yielding two runs over 6 2-3 innings May 29 in a 3-1 defeat.

The right-hander has a 2.97 ERA in night games compared to his 5.65 mark during the day. Infante is the Marlin who has fared the best against him, going 7 for 13.

The Nationals have the lone homer in this series, a two-run shot by Zimmerman in the third inning of Friday’s 5-1 victory. Zimmerman and LaRoche each has gone 5 for 12 in the three games.

Shortstop Ian Desmond was held out of Sunday’s lineup after aggravating a left oblique in his final at-bat Saturday. He is considered day to day after batting .407 over his last 15 games, although he is 0 for 6 off Zambrano.

Desmond had not missed a contest since April 19.

“It’s something that he’s learned to live with – and hopefully treatment, the stretching, can loosen it back up and he’ll be good to go,” manager Davey Johnson told the Nationals’ official website. “Certainly his performance, it hasn’t hurt his power.”

Rookie All-Star Bryce Harper is 1 for 12 with four strikeouts in this series. He exchanged words with Guillen in a fourth-inning incident Sunday after the manager became upset over the amount of pine tar on Harper’s bat.

“I’ve been praising this kid the last three times they’ve asked me about him, he’s a great player,” Guillen said. “What he did today was unprofessional.”

Reds go for sweep of Cards

St. Louis (46-41) at Cincinnati (48-38), 8:05 p.m. EDT

The All-Star break hasn’t seemed to slow down the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds.

If they are to extend their winning streak to six and complete a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night, though, they’ll need to do it without their ace.

Johnny Cueto was scheduled to start, but following Saturday’s 3-2, 10-inning victory, the Reds (49-38) announced their 10-game winner would be scratched because of a blister, developed on the index finger of his pitching hand during a bullpen session. He is tentatively scheduled to pitch against Arizona on Tuesday.

Homer Bailey (7-6, 4.14 ERA) will get the start instead for a Reds team trying to move 12 games above .500 for the first time in 2012. Cincinnati matched its season high-water mark Saturday after Ryan Ludwick’s game-ending homer game the team its fifth straight win.

The Reds have won three straight against St. Louis (46-42) after losing four of the season’s first five meetings, and are seeking their first sweep of the Cardinals since May 13-15, 2011. The Cardinals, who have dropped 3 1/2 games out of first, haven’t been swept by anyone since May 18-20 of this season against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“One of our philosophies is trying to win every series,” Ludwick said. “We have the chance (Sunday) to do something that doesn’t happen too often against that ballclub.”

Bailey might be up to the challenge of replacing Cueto, seeing as he’s pitched well in his last two starts, but those outings came against struggling offenses in pitcher-friendly parks.

Bailey has allowed four earned runs over 14 2-3 innings to win road starts this month against the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego. He’d yielded eight earned runs over 9 1-3 innings while losing his previous two outings – both at home – and is 0-3 with an 8.05 ERA in his last four starts at Great American Ball Park.

The right-hander made his season debut against the Cardinals in Cincinnati on April 9, yielding four runs and six hits – including homers to All-Stars Matt Holliday, David Freese and Yadier Molina – in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-1 loss.

Holliday is batting .389 with two homers in 18 career at-bats against Bailey, while Freese is 3 for 11 with two home runs and a double.

Holliday extended his hitting streak to a season-high 13 games with a sixth-inning single Saturday, but also left four men on base. The Cardinals, who had won six of eight before the break, went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 runners.

“We had some opportunities and we had some guys up there that come through in those situations more often,” manager Mike Matheny said.

In the series finale, Matheny will give the ball to Jake Westbrook (7-7, 3.75), who opposed Bailey back in April and allowed an unearned run and three hits in seven innings to get the victory.

Westbrook’s last start came against Miami on July 6, when he gave up two runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-2 loss. Despite the defeat – his first since June 8 – the veteran right-hander has a 2.67 ERA in his last five outings.

Westbrook has had some success against Cincinnati slugger Joey Votto, limiting him to one hit in nine at-bats along with five walks, but will have to be careful pitching to red-hot Brandon Phillips.

Phillips is 8 for 14 with four runs in his last three games, and is batting .412 with two doubles in 17 career at-bats against Westbrook.

The Reds are 28-6 when Phillips scores a run and 18-28 when he doesn’t.