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.