Texas (52-38) at Boston (51-39)

Fair Currently: Boston, MA
Temp: 75° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Sat Jul 17, 2010
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Cliff Lee(notes) pitched like a workhorse in his first start for the Texas Rangers.

Now, he’ll try again to break into the win column with his new team.

Texas’ prized trade acquisition seeks to pitch the Rangers to a third consecutive victory over the slumping Boston Red Sox on Saturday night at Fenway Park.

Obtained July 9 in a six-player deal with Seattle, Lee (8-4, 2.64 ERA) made his Rangers debut last Saturday in a 6-1 home loss to Baltimore. The 2008 AL Cy Young winner yielded six runs and a season-high three homers.

“It is what it is,” Lee said. “The first one is out of the way and hopefully I can do better from here on out.”

However, the performance wasn’t all bad for the left-hander, who went the distance for his AL-best sixth complete game and fourth in his last five starts.

“Cliff showed exactly what he’s capable of doing,” Rangers third baseman Michael Young(notes) said. “He had to be tired from all the travel and all that’s been going on for the last couple of days, but he showed exactly what he’s capable of giving us. … We’re all excited about what we have.”

Lee should be rested enough to go nine again despite pitching an inning in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. He needed only six pitches to retire all three NL batters he faced.

He will be opposed by Boston’s biggest pitching acquisition of 2010 in John Lackey(notes) (9-5, 4.78), who hasn’t lived up to expectations since signing a contract worth $82.5 million over five years.

Lackey allowed seven runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings of last Saturday’s 9-5 loss at Toronto. He walked six, a season high.

“That’s kind of the way things have been going for me,” he said.

Lackey will now try to avoid losing three consecutive starts for the first time since Aug. 4-14, 2006, a slump that included a defeat to Texas while with the Los Angeles Angels.

He’d probably prefer to face a different team. Lackey is 11-12 with a 5.87 ERA against Texas - the ERA is his highest against any AL opponent. In his last 10 starts versus the Rangers, he’s compiled a 7.74 ERA and a .356 opponent batting average.

Young is 31 for 83 (.373) off the former AL West rival right-hander - both his most hits off any pitcher and the most hits allowed by Lackey to any batter.

The AL West-leading Rangers (52-38) appear primed to give Lackey fits again, as they’ve had no problems hitting the Boston staff hard while winning the first two games of this series. Texas has racked up 15 runs and 24 hits in the victories. Lackey’s former batterymate Bengie Molina(notes) hit for the cycle in Friday’s 8-4 win, including a fifth-inning grand slam to break open a close game.

The slow-footed catcher completed the cycle in the eighth by legging out the sixth triple of his 13-year career.

“For a guy who has been criticized for his speed for 11 1/2 years and may be the slowest guy in the world, it was an unbelievable feeling,” Molina said.

However, Molina left the game a few pitches later due to tightness in his right quadriceps. His status for Saturday is uncertain.

The Red Sox (51-39) have dropped seven of nine to fall 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Yankees in the AL East and 3 1/2 behind Tampa Bay for the wild card.

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Starting Pitchers

C. Lee Phi vs. J. Lackey StL
12-9 Record 14-11
3.18 ERA 4.40
185 K 156
18 BB 72
1.00 WHIP 1.42


Saturday, Jul 17