Rangers-Royals Preview

With a comfortable lead in the AL West, the Texas Rangers may
not need Cliff Lee to be dominant in order to reach the playoffs
for the first time in more than a decade.

Winning in the postseason, however, will almost surely require
the left-hander to be at the top of his game.

Lee looks to avoid losing four straight starts for the first
time in more than three years when the Rangers face the Kansas City
Royals on Tuesday night.

Although Texas (74-57) has extended its division lead since
acquiring Lee (10-8, 3.26 ERA) from Seattle on July 9, the 2008 AL
Cy Young Award winner hasn’t been nearly as good as he was with the
Mariners.

Lee is 2-5 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 starts with the Rangers, and
the two-time All-Star has been particularly bad lately. He has lost
his last three starts with a 9.33 ERA.

”I haven’t been locating pitches as well as I expect myself to
and they haven’t missed them,” Lee said. ”It’s just been a
handful of pitches and they happened to capitalize on them. I’ve
got to do a better job of staying out of the heart of the plate.
That’s really it.”

He lasted five innings in a 6-4 loss to Minnesota on Thursday,
giving up five runs. That was his shortest start since going four
innings for Philadelphia at Atlanta on Sept. 20. There was a rain
delay of almost two hours in that game, and Lee didn’t return when
play resumed.

”I’m a guy who’s expected to take the ball every fifth day and
go deep in games,” Lee said. ”That’s what I want to do. And for
the most part, I’ve done that this year. I’ve just run into a
little rough stretch.”

Lee, who lost four straight starts twice in 2007, has beaten the
Royals (55-76) more than any other team. He is 12-5 with a 4.28 ERA
in 22 starts against Kansas City.

C.J. Wilson made sure Texas got off to a good start to its
10-game road trip Monday night, allowing two hits over 7 2-3
innings of a 3-0 victory. Andres Blanco had three of the Rangers’
11 hits as they stretched their lead in the West to 8 1/2 games
over Oakland.

The Royals have lost five of seven overall and seven of their
last eight meetings with the Rangers.

Sean O’Sullivan (2-4, 4.96) tries to post his first win as a
starter in more than a month for Kansas City. The right-hander has
gone 0-4 with a 6.17 ERA in six starts since beating the New York
Yankees in his Royals debut July 25. His only win since then came
with one scoreless inning of relief against the Chicago White Sox
on Aug. 22.

O’Sullivan had his best start of the season Wednesday at
Detroit, allowing three runs over seven innings of a 4-3, 12-inning
victory.

He won both of his starts against the Rangers in 2009, posting a
3.27 ERA.