Riding their longest winning streak in two months, the Texas Rangers certainly aren’t worried about their grip on first place in the AL West.
They may, however, have some concerns about their recently acquired ace.
Texas (72-54) has an 8 1/2-game lead over second-place Oakland thanks in part to a four-game winning streak - its longest since an 11-game run June 12-24.
Strong pitching has buoyed the Rangers against Minnesota (72-55), which has totaled six runs and 17 hits during this series. Five relievers secured Texas’ 4-3 win Wednesday and helped C.J. Wilson(notes) pick up his team-high 13th victory.
“Every single guy stepped up,” Wilson said. “It was awesome.”
Lee (10-7, 3.09 ERA), however, has struggled lately, going 1-3 with a 5.80 ERA in five August starts. The left-hander went 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA for Seattle this year, but is 2-4 with a 4.18 ERA since the Rangers acquired him July 9.
The 2008 AL Cy Young winner failed to complete six innings for the first time this season Saturday at Baltimore, allowing eight runs and four homers in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-6 loss.
“They hit some good pitches and they hit some pitches I left over the plate,” Lee said. “I missed my location several times and they made me pay for it.
“I just want to work deep and keep my team in the game. Obviously I didn’t do that.”
Although he is 5-0 with a 2.45 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break, the left-hander has failed to complete six innings in each of his last three outings, walking 12 and posting a 5.87 ERA in 15 1-3 innings.
A dead arm has kept Liriano from pitching since last Wednesday, when he allowed five runs in five innings of a 7-6 win over Chicago.
Liriano also struggled during his most recent outing at Texas, giving up seven runs in two innings of an 8-5 loss Aug. 17, 2009.
A former AL Central rival of the Twins with Cleveland, Lee has gone 8-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 18 starts against Minnesota - including 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA since the start of 2008.
The Twins lead their division by 3 1/2 games, but they’re on the verge of being swept for the first time since losing three straight at Milwaukee from June 22-24. They have not been swept by Texas since a three-game set July 8-10, 2003.
Minnesota won 21 of 27 before arriving in Arlington but has sputtered offensively in this series. Justin Morneau(notes) remains out of the lineup with a concussion and Delmon Young(notes) is 1 for 15 with no RBIs in his last four games.