Arlington, Texas - Rangers fans flocked to the ticket windows by the thousands Saturday, purchasing a walk-up record 14,300 tickets for what two days earlier had been just an ordinary weekend baseball game.
They came to watch the Cliff Lee freight train leave the station, heading toward the American League West title, packed with plenty of hype and even more hope.
The Rangers had acquired Lee from the Seattle Mariners on Friday, and a night later 41,093 fans gave Rangers Ballpark in Arlington the feel of opening day.
Lee was applauded simply for walking to the bullpen to warm up. Then the left-hander took the mound, and could match neither the buildup or Baltimore right-hander Chris Tillman, who came to the Orioles along with Adam Jones in the same 2008 trade that send Erik Bedard to Seattle.
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Jones, Nick Markakis and Cesar Izturis all hit home runs as the Orioles spoiled Lee’s debut with a 6-1 win. Lee threw a complete game, allowing nine hits, with two strikeouts and no walks.
Tillman, recalled from Triple-A before the game, carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and upstaged Lee with a two-hitter over 7 innings.
“They were superaggressive,” said Lee, who had allowed only five homers entering Saturday. “It was a good game plan on their part. They came out swinging early. They know I throw strikes. Usually, that works to my advantage. Tonight, it worked in their favor.”
Rangers catcher Matt Treanor was hardly discouraged by what he saw from Lee.
“I thought he was fantastic,” Treanor said. “He’s wanting to pound the strike zone and force contact. He really has good command of all his pitches. It was just a weird game today.”