ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx has gotten over the star-struck phase of making his major league debut at the age of 32.
Now Bibens-Dirkx (2-0, 3.28 ERA) is squarely focused on helping the Rangers' rotation continue its recent string of success when he squares off against Toronto and right-hander Marco Estrada (4-5, 4.54 ERA) on Monday as the Rangers and Blue Jays open a four-game series.
Bibens-Dirkx played a big role in the recent rotation surge in his last start. Against the Washington Nationals, he allowed a leadoff homer in the bottom of the first but that was the lone run he allowed in seven innings as he picked up his first victory as a starter.
Part of the reason for his success has been his ability to simplify the game and just pitch.
"They're human beings," Bibens-Dirkx said. "They can get out. When you see big-league guys, you see names. You can see them get out. That's one of the things I've learned throughout the years is if you make a quality pitch, you have a chance. If you make a mistake, it won't turn out too well for you. That's probably the biggest surprise is I've been able to make quality pitches and get big-league guys out."
While Monday's game will be only his eighth appearance, Bibens-Dirkx has faced the Jays before. He pitched four innings in relief on May 26, allowing three runs and striking out five. He also gave up two homers.
Bibens-Dirkx knows he'll have to make adjustments from that outing.
"We're going to have to have a little bit of a different game plan," he said. "I know they're going to have a lot more of a scouting report on me. I've got to make as many quality pitches as possible. I have to be a little smarter about making pitches and keeping the ball down. They have a lot of power guys in the lineup."
Estrada will have his hands full against the Rangers, too. He's struggled throughout June, losing all three of his starts and not pitching more than 5 2/3 innings. He has a 12.08 ERA in June and was blasted by Tampa Bay for six runs on 2 hits in 3 1/3 innings in his last start.
His last win did come against Texas, as he allowed one run in six innings on May 27. The Rangers should provide Estrada with a chance to get going. He's 2-1 for his career against Texas with a 2.40 ERA in five starts.
The Jays, who avoided getting swept by the Chicago White Sox with a 7-3 win Sunday, are two games under .500 and general manager Ross Atkins knows his team needs to get going soon. Toronto is 5-5 in its last 10 games and in last place in the American League East.
"No question, I think we'll have a pretty good idea in two weeks of where things stand," said Atkins to Sportsnet.ca. "That might not be the case, but it feels as though some things are going to crystalize in the coming weeks, and certainly beyond that stretch, we'll have a real good feel for how strong this team is."