Since the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics have excelled on the mound recently, it’s not surprising that Cliff Lee(notes) and Dallas Braden(notes) each turned in complete games in their last outings, albeit with different results.
The left-handers will meet Friday night when Lee and the AL West-leading Rangers begin a three-game road series against Braden and the Athletics.
This series pits the teams with the best ERAs in baseball since the All-Star break. Oakland (54-53) leads the majors in that span at 2.98, while Texas (63-45) is right behind at 2.99.
The Athletics have won eight of their last 11 at home, where they have a major league-best 2.89 ERA. However, the Rangers have won five of nine in the season series, with eight of those games decided by three runs or fewer.
“We have our work cut out,” Athletics manager Bob Geren told MLB.com. “They have some good pitchers. That being said, our pitchers have been very good, and they tend to pitch better at home. We’ll probably have some close games.”
Lee (9-5, 2.51 ERA) hasn’t lost consecutive starts all year, but fell to 1-2 with a 2.91 ERA in five starts with Texas after scattering nine hits in a 4-1 road loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
“Getting deep in games and giving the team a chance to win, that’s a starting pitcher’s job,” said Lee, who leads the AL in ERA and complete games (seven). “All I can do is throw strikes and make the other team swing the bat.”
The nine straight starts in which Lee has pitched at least eight innings is the longest such streak in the majors since Pat Hentgen’s 12-game run for Toronto in 1996.
Lee may have an easy time making it 10 in a row Friday based on his lone previous start against Oakland this year. He struck out a career-high 13 and pitched nine innings in a 3-1, 10-inning victory July 27.
Braden (6-7, 3.63), meanwhile, has won consecutive starts after going 0-5 with a 4.10 ERA in his first nine outings following his perfect game May 9 against Tampa Bay. Braden gave up eight hits and threw a season-high 111 pitches in Saturday’s 6-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
“That’s the confidence we’re all seeking from our manager. It’s good to see he has that confidence,” Braden said of being allowed to go the distance. “More than often it’s safer to go with matchups but the boys got on them early today and I was able to do it from there.”
Braden is 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA in three career home starts against the Rangers, and up three runs over seven innings May 3 in a 4-2 loss. Michael Young(notes) (7 for 17), Josh Hamilton(notes) (4 for 7) and Vladimir Guerrero(notes) (3 for 6) have all had success against him.
Young is 13 for 35 against Oakland this year, and Hamilton is 16 for 38.
The Rangers have matched a season high in building their division lead to 8 1/2 games over the A’s. Texas improved to 3-3 on its nine-game trip after Tommy Hunter(notes) pitched 6 1-3 effective innings and David Murphy(notes) homered for the second straight night in Thursday’s 6-0 victory over Seattle.