Cliff Lee was steaming.
The Texas ace thought he’d thrown strike three to Derek Jeter, not ball four. He knew the walk meant he was coming out of the game. So, off he stomped – not even bothering to savor having allowed two hits over eight-plus innings in his first start since getting an injection in his back.
Then Neftali Feliz struck out the side and Lee’s mood brightened. He leaped over the dugout railing with a big smile to celebrate the Rangers’ 4-1 victory over the New York Yankees in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday that wrapped up a sweep in a series between division leaders and potential first-round playoff foes.
“Every time he has the ball, he doesn’t expect to be anything less than that, and we don’t really expect it out of him,” said Ian Kinsler, who turned a walk into Texas’ first run. “It’s just nice having him back on the field and healthy.”
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Lee (11-8) looked like the ace the Rangers expected when they gave up a top prospect for what could be a half-season rental, and nothing like the guy who had a 9.00 ERA over his last four starts.
He opened the game by walking Jeter, then wiped him out by getting speedy Curtis Granderson to hit into a double play. He retired the next 14 batters, too. With one out in the sixth, the Yankees hadn’t gotten the ball out of the infield.
Eduardo Nuñez broke up the no-hit bid with a line drive to center field, then scored on a single by Jeter. Lee recovered, though, retiring seven in a row before opening the ninth inning with the leadoff walk to Jeter that prompted a rare display of emotion from a guy who hates to come out of any game, especially against the Yankees.
“He came after us like he always does,” said New York’s Jorge Posada, who went 0-for-3. “He’s a good pitcher who comes after you and puts the ball where he wants to.”
Lee said his back “felt fine, not restricting at all.”
The Yankees lost for the sixth time in seven games and were swept in a three-game series for the first time since July 2009 at Anaheim.
San Francisco Giants outfielder Andres Torres had an appendectomy Sunday and is expected to be out for 10 to 14 days. It’s a blow for the Giants, who are dueling with the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies in the NL West and have come to rely on Torres at all three outfield spots. … Nationals pitcher Jason Marquis plans to make his scheduled start Friday night at Philadelphia, even though he is Jewish and it will be Kol Nidre, the start of Yom Kippur. Marquis has previously pitched on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, while with Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs. … Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta left Sunday’s 4-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks because of a right calf strain.