A season-ending four-game series between the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels could have had major playoff implications. Instead, it'll just serve as a postseason warmup for the AL West champion Rangers.
Cliff Lee attempts to create some of his own momentum in his final regular-season appearance when Texas hosts the Angels on Thursday night.
The Rangers (88-70) cruised to their first West title since 1999, after finishing second to Los Angeles (78-80) the last two seasons.
The Angels had won five of the previous six division crowns, including the last three. This year, they expected to make a run at another West title with Texas as the main challenger. Instead, Los Angeles must win three of four to avoid its first losing season since 2003.
Meanwhile, the Rangers are gearing up for their first playoff appearance in 11 years, thanks in part to the midseason acquisition of Lee (12-9, 3.29 ERA).
The 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner is scheduled to start Game 1 of the AL division series Wednesday against either Tampa Bay or New York.
"We've got to finish the season first. I've got another start to make," Lee told the Rangers' official website. "But it's the first game, you want to win the first one, and I'm going to do everything I can to help the team win."
Before that, the left-hander would like to rebound from last Thursday's 5-0 loss at Oakland. He allowed four runs in five innings and got outpitched by Dallas Braden, who combined with a reliever on a one-hitter.
Lee is 4-6 with a 4.25 ERA in 14 starts since Texas acquired him in a six-player trade from Seattle in July. He threw a complete game but lost 4-1 to the Angels on Aug. 1, ending a personal five-game winning streak over Los Angeles.
Texas, which has won 11 of 15 at home against Los Angeles, could get an offensive boost in this series with Josh Hamilton expected to return Friday. The left fielder has been out since Sept. 4 with two broken ribs.
Angels center fielder Torii Hunter's RBI single Wednesday gave Los Angeles a 2-1, 11-inning win over Oakland and a three-game sweep. Hunter is batting .346 over his last six games.
Los Angeles starter Scott Kazmir (9-15, 6.03) will take the mound for the final time this year, ending a difficult season that included a stint on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue. The left-hander has set career highs in losses and ERA, and is 2-10 with a 7.00 ERA in his last 14 starts.
He struggled again Saturday, surrendering five runs in three innings of a 6-2 loss to Chicago.
Kazmir has lost both of his starts to Texas this season, surrendering nine runs in 11 2-3 innings.