Because the Texas Rangers haven’t been to the playoffs in over a decade and are still seeking their first World Series appearance, there is no time like the present for them to make a serious run.
Adding the hottest pitcher in baseball should help them do that.
Already holding a 4 1/2-game lead in the AL West, the Rangers (50-36) made a major move Friday to hopefully assure themselves of the franchise’s first postseason appearance since 1999 by acquiring Lee from Seattle as part of a six-player deal.
“They’ve got a great team, they’re in first place and I’m going to try and go there and do everything I can to help them head in the direction their heading,” Lee said. “They’re already in a good spot, have a great team and I just want to be one of the guys.”
The move came as something of a surprise with Texas involved in bankruptcy proceedings and dealing with an unsettled ownership situation.
“Everybody knows our situation. When we take on salary, we have to look at that and see if we can justify it within our budget,” team president Nolan Ryan said. “As long as we stay within our budget, we don’t really have restrictions on us to where we can’t do things.”
If Lee pitches anything like he did with Seattle, Texas will be more than happy with the trade. The 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner had been brilliant for the Mariners after overcoming an abdominal injury that sidelined him most of April. He is 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts, leads the AL with five complete games and has the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio (89 strikeouts to six walks) in the majors.
The ace left-hander nearly became the first pitcher since Roy Halladay(notes) in 2008 to throw four straight complete games before settling for a dominant eight-inning performance Sunday in an 8-1 win at Detroit. He allowed one run and nine hits with one walk and matched a career high with 11 strikeouts in improving to 7-1 in his last nine starts.
Lee is 4-0 with a 2.38 ERA in five starts against the Orioles, giving up two runs over 14 1-3 innings in the last two.
Although Lee will be facing the worst team in baseball, Baltimore (27-59) has rallied from 4-0 deficits to win the first two games of this series. The Orioles got a two-out, game-tying grand slam from Corey Patterson(notes) in the ninth inning Friday before Jake Fox’s(notes) leadoff homer in the 10th gave them a 7-6 victory.
Baltimore has come from behind in eight of its last nine wins.
Vladimir Guerrero(notes) hit a three-run homer for the Rangers, who need to win their remaining two games to tie a franchise record for victories before the All-Star break, set by the 1979 club that was 52-39.
The Orioles will recall Chris Tillman(notes) (0-3, 8.40) from Triple-A Norfolk to take the spot in the rotation vacated by Kevin Millwood(notes), who was placed on the disabled list Tuesday. One of the organization’s top prospects, the 22-year-old pitched poorly in four starts before he was sent to the minors June 22.
Tillman’s last start in the majors was among his worst, as he lasted two innings while allowing six runs and six hits in a 10-2 loss at San Francisco on June 14.
The right-hander earned a trip back to the majors by going 3-0 with a 1.66 ERA at Norfolk.
Tillman yielded five runs in six innings of a 5-1 loss to the Rangers on Sept. 4.