ARLINGTON, Texas - This time, Cliff Lee was rewarded for a quality start with his 99th career win.
Lee allowed five hits over 8 innings to outpitch fellow All-Star Jered Weaver, and the Texas Rangers beat the Los Angeles Angels, 3-2, on Thursday night to give the AL West leaders a season-high six-game lead over the second-place Angels.
Lee (9-4) struck out four and didn’t walk a batter in his third start since he was acquired from Seattle in a six-player deal on July 9.
“Anytime you go out and give the team a chance to win, it feels good,” Lee said after his first victory for Texas. “Got the first one out of the way.”
Lee was the loser in a 6-1 defeat to Baltimore in his Rangers debut on July 10. Lee went nine innings in his second start for Texas on July 17, a no-decision in a game the Rangers lost to Boston, 3-2, in 11 innings.
Lee retired Bobby Abreu on a fly ball to open the ninth, then seemed surprised when manager Ron Washington walked to the mound. After a discussion, Washington brought in closer Neftali Feliz, who got Torii Hunter and Mike Napoli to fly out for his 26th save.
Washington was booed by some in the crowd for the pitching change, but he felt that Lee had done enough throwing 99 pitches on a hot night.
“I told him he took us far enough. I thought tonight he worked pretty hard and it would have been a disaster for him ... one pitch and everything would have gone down the drain, so I brought the closer in,” Washington said.
Lee wanted to finish what he started, but he didn’t argue, handing Washington the ball after the manager motioned for Feliz to enter the game.
Weaver (9-6) gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings with five strikeouts and two walks in a game that had something of a playoff feel.
Lee was just a little better.
“Give Lee credit,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “On the mound, he controlled the tempo of the game. We couldn’t bunch many hits and he didn’t walk anybody.”
Michael Young homered and Josh Hamilton drove in the go-ahead run with a double in the sixth as the Rangers opened a stretch of seven games against the Angels over an 11-day span.
“Each game with these guys now is important,” Weaver said. “Falling six back isn’t where we want to be. We’re not used to this, but we’re not going to give up. They have a great club over there and if you make any mistakes, they make you pay for it.”
With one out in the sixth and the score even at 1, Vladimir Guerrero, who starred for the Angels from 2004-09, stretched what should have been a single into a double after slapping an outside pitch to right-center.
Hamilton followed with a double to the gap in left-center to score Guerrero and put the Rangers ahead for good.
Hamilton went to third on Nelson Cruz’s infield single off the glove of second baseman Howie Kendrick, and Hamilton slid home on ex-Angel Bengie Molina’s sacrifice fly to extend Texas’ lead to 3-1.