Lee shut down the Mariners for eight innings in his first start in Seattle since a July trade, leading the first-place Texas Rangers to a 6-1 victory Saturday night.
“This is the first time I’ve got to play against a team that I played for previously,” Lee said. “Anytime you get a chance to pitch against a team that you played for you obviously want to do well.
“I want to pitch well every time. But when it’s against a team you played for there’s a little extra incentive,” he added. “
Lee (12-8) allowed six hits and struck out eight for his second consecutive win after three losses and a no decision. Lee improved to 4-5 with the Rangers as they close in on their first postseason berth since 1999.
“To have Cliff pitch the way he did tonight, that’s huge,” Texas right fielder Jeff Francoeur(notes) said. “At the end of the day, he’s that guy that’s going to go toe to toe with a couple of the other No. 1’s when we continue to get closer to clinching the playoffs. When we get to October that’s what we need is the type of performance he had tonight.
“Not to put too much pressure on him. But he did it last year (for Philadelphia) and he’s used to that,” Francoeur said.
Lee improved to 10-1 in 13 career starts against the Mariners. He has 25 strikeouts and one walk (on Saturday) in his last five appearances against Seattle.
The Mariners had runners on second and third with no outs in the fifth after Smoak singled and Josh Bard(notes) doubled. But Lee retired the next three batters with a strikeout, popup and foul flyout to preserve a 3-0 lead.
“He comes right at you,” Seattle manager Daren Brown said about Lee. “You know he is going to throw strikes. You know he is going to be around the plate. That makes him the guy that he is. Anytime he is on the other side, you know you’ve got a tough game in front of you.”
Smoak, who was called up Saturday from Triple-A Tacoma, started at first and went 1 for 3 against Lee with a single.
Lee went 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts for Seattle after being picked up in an offseason trade with Philadelphia. Lee is a free agent after this season.
NOTES: Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton(notes) said before the game that he still feels pain in his bruised ribs even after receiving two cortisone shots on Wednesday. He said in a best-case scenario he would return to play for a week of the regular season. “At the moment, I don’t see that happening,” he said. Hamilton added he will know more Monday about what he might do next to treat the injury sustained Sept. 4 when he ran into an outfield wall in Minnesota. … Ichiro Suzuki(notes) had an infield single in the first to give him 3,500 in his pro career, including 2,222 in the majors and 1,278 in Japan. He added another infield single in the eighth.