Rangers-Athletics Preview

Since the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics have excelled on

the mound recently, it’s not surprising that Cliff Lee and Dallas

Braden each turned in complete games in their last outings, albeit

with different results.

The left-handers will meet Friday night when Lee and the AL

West-leading Rangers begin a three-game road series against Braden

and the Athletics.

This series pits the teams with the best ERAs in baseball since

the All-Star break. Oakland (54-53) leads the majors in that span

at 2.98, while Texas (63-45) is right behind at 2.99.

The Athletics have won eight of their last 11 at home, where

they have a major league-best 2.89 ERA. However, the Rangers have

won five of nine in the season series, with eight of those games

decided by three runs or fewer.

“We have our work cut out,” Athletics manager Bob Geren told

MLB.com. “They have some good pitchers. That being said, our

pitchers have been very good, and they tend to pitch better at

home. We’ll probably have some close games.”

Lee (9-5, 2.51 ERA) hasn’t lost consecutive starts all year, but

fell to 1-2 with a 2.91 ERA in five starts with Texas after

scattering nine hits in a 4-1 road loss to the Los Angeles Angels

on Sunday.

“Getting deep in games and giving the team a chance to win,

that’s a starting pitcher’s job,” said Lee, who leads the AL in ERA

and complete games (seven). “All I can do is throw strikes and make

the other team swing the bat.”

The nine straight starts in which Lee has pitched at least eight

innings is the longest such streak in the majors since Pat

Hentgen’s 12-game run for Toronto in 1996.

Lee may have an easy time making it 10 in a row Friday based on

his lone previous start against Oakland this year. He struck out a

career-high 13 and pitched nine innings in a 3-1, 10-inning victory

July 27.

Braden (6-7, 3.63), meanwhile, has won consecutive starts after

going 0-5 with a 4.10 ERA in his first nine outings following his

perfect game May 9 against Tampa Bay. Braden gave up eight hits and

threw a season-high 111 pitches in Saturday’s 6-2 victory over the

Chicago White Sox.

“That’s the confidence we’re all seeking from our manager. It’s

good to see he has that confidence,” Braden said of being allowed

to go the distance. “More than often it’s safer to go with matchups

but the boys got on them early today and I was able to do it from

there.”

Braden is 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA in three career home starts

against the Rangers, and up three runs over seven innings May 3 in

a 4-2 loss. Michael Young (7 for 17), Josh Hamilton (4 for 7) and

Vladimir Guerrero (3 for 6) have all had success against him.

Young is 13 for 35 against Oakland this year, and Hamilton is 16

for 38.

The Rangers have matched a season high in building their

division lead to 8 1/2 games over the A’s. Texas improved to 3-3 on

its nine-game trip after Tommy Hunter pitched 6 1-3 effective

innings and David Murphy homered for the second straight night in

Thursday’s 6-0 victory over Seattle.