Rangers 5, Athletics 1

Cliff Lee has no interest in discussing his accomplishments thus

far – all the strikeouts to so few walks, all the outings he’s

worked deep into games.

Nah, not yet. He wants to pitch the Texas Rangers into the

playoffs before anything else.

Lee went at least eight innings for the 10th straight start,

Taylor Teagarden hit a two-run homer and the first-place Rangers

built their biggest division lead in 11 years with a 5-1 victory

over the Oakland Athletics on Friday night.

”I’m not going to sit here and pat myself on the back for

anything,” Lee said. ”I just want to give my team a chance to win

every time I take the mound.”

Lee (10-5), who won for the first time in three starts, struck

out eight and didn’t walk a batter in eight innings. The Rangers

moved a season-best 19 games over .500 (64-45).

Josh Hamilton added a solo homer for the Rangers in the opener

of a key series between the AL West’s top two teams. Texas won its

third straight and increased its division lead to 9 1/2 games ahead

of the A’s.

This marks the Rangers’ largest division lead since being 10

games up late in the 1999 season. They won the West that year by

eight games over Oakland at 95-67.

”You can’t take anything for granted,” Lee said. ”There’s

still a lot of season left. We want to clinch it as soon as we can.

But a lot of things can happen. We can’t get complacent or

content.”

Lee quickly found his groove after falling behind in the first.

He gave up a one-out triple to Daric Barton in the first, then Kurt

Suzuki followed with an RBI double to give Oakland the early lead.

After Barton’s one-out single in the third, he retired 16 of the

next 17 batters before consecutive two-out singles by Barton and

Suzuki.

Lee received a mound visit from pitching coach Mike Maddux, then

struck out Kevin Kouzmanoff. Frank Francisco worked the ninth to

finish the 2-hour, 19-minute game.

At 112 pitches, manager Ron Washington decided Lee was done.

”He didn’t need to go back out there. He’s our horse, but we’ve

also got to protect him when we can,” Washington said. ”What’s

marvelous is you know what’s coming and you still can’t do a heck

of a lot with it. That’s a model pitcher right there.”

Lee didn’t walk a batter for the 12th time in 19 starts. He has

allowed only nine free passes all season while striking out 126. He

was coming off a 4-1 loss his last time out Sunday against the

Angels in Anaheim despite his career-best seventh complete game of

the year. The lefty has thrown at least eight innings in all five

of his starts since joining the Rangers in a trade from the

Mariners on July 9.

During this three-game winning streak, the Rangers have scored

22 runs on 33 hits after managing only five runs and 14 hits in

their previous three contests.

”This team’s got one goal right now: to get to the playoffs,”

Teagarden said. ”That’s a nice lead but there are a lot of games

left.”

A’s starter Dallas Braden (6-8), coming off a complete game win

over the White Sox in Chicago last Saturday, was done after six

innings after complaining of a tender jaw following a dental

procedure earlier in the week.

He was trying to win third straight start after a nine-start

winless stretch in which he went 0-5 after his improbable perfect

game against the Rays on May 9.

”I’ve had the procedure a couple of times,” Braden said. ”I

already marked that one off my list. It’s a tooth on my right side

and I had it taken out Tuesday. It was to the point where when I

took a breath in the fourth inning the cold hit the area and my

head was pounding and my neck was tight. Those are all side notes

though. I was unimpressive at best.”

A’s reliever Brad Ziegler had trouble in the eighth. He wildly

threw past first on a pickoff attempt for a two-base error that put

Elvis Andrus on third. Andrus then scored on a balk by Ziegler, the

first of his career.

Andrus had an earlier RBI double for the Rangers.

Boof Bonser pitched the ninth for the A’s in his Oakland

debut.

NOTES: A’s closer Andrew Bailey didn’t throw on flat ground

again Friday as planned because he didn’t come out of his short

Wednesday session ”as well as we’d liked,” according to manager

Bob Geren. Bailey hasn’t pitched since July 20 because of a

strained right ribcage muscle, but didn’t consider this a setback.

He will take a couple of days off. ”We have to give him time to

get right,” Geren said. ”I always stay optimistic with things

like this.” … Lee is 5-2 in 12 career outings and 11 starts vs.

the A’s. … This is just the sixth season in club history the

Rangers had reached 18 or more games over .500. … Oakland OF

Conor Jackson, on the DL since July 1 with a strained right

hamstring, is slated to play in an Arizona League game Sunday.

Geren said he’s likely to start and play three innings to get a

couple of at-bats. … Saturday’s game was changed from a night

game to day for TV.