Facing his former Mariners teammates for the first time since being traded again in July, Lee takes the ball for the AL West-leading Texas Rangers on Saturday night when they try to rebound from one of their worst offensive performances of the season.
After going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five playoff starts for Philadelphia last season—including both of the team’s World Series victories—Lee expected to sign an extension with the two-time defending NL champions.
“Basically, they had an opportunity to get the best pitcher in baseball,” Lee said after the trade. “I can’t blame them for choosing Roy Halladay over me.”
The Mariners were thrilled to add the 2008 AL Cy Young winner to a staff anchored by Felix Hernandez(notes), but when Seattle fell far out of the West race, Lee was the key to a July 9 trade to the Rangers for promising first baseman Justin Smoak(notes) and three minor leaguers.
“It was a pleasure to have him here,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said of Lee, who went 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts for Seattle. “… We felt we were at the point where something had to be done for the long-term good of the organization.”
While it’s uncertain if Lee (11-8, 3.28 ERA) will be a part of the Rangers’ future with his free agency approaching this offseason, manager Ron Washington has already tabbed the left-hander as Texas’ Game 1 starter in the playoffs.
In 12 career starts versus the Mariners, Lee is 9-1 with a 3.35 ERA. He has 17 strikeouts and no walks in his last four appearances against Seattle.
Trying to move closer to their first postseason appearance since 1999, the Rangers (82-64) hope for another solid outing from Lee after they were held without a hit by Hernandez into the eighth inning, and limited to a season-low three in Friday’s 2-1 loss.
“When he takes the mound, something special could happen that night,” interim manager Daren Brown said of Hernandez, whose no-hit bid was broken up by Nelson Cruz’s(notes) homer leading off the eighth.
Texas batted .318 and averaged 7.3 runs while winning its previous seven.
The left-hander has received just seven total runs of support while losing his last five starts. Vargas threw seven innings of two-run ball Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels, but Seattle managed just four hits in the 3-0 road loss.
Vargas is 1-1 with a 5.56 ERA in two starts against Texas this season.