Twins avoid sweep by beating Lee

Arlington, Texas - Cliff Lee insists there's no reason to panic despite his recent struggles.

Lee gave up five runs in five innings and was outpitched by Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano as the Twins beat the Texas Rangers, 6-4, on Thursday night to avoid a four-game sweep.

“I haven’t been locating pitches as well as I expect myself to, and (hitters) 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.”

Lee fell to 2-5 in his 10 starts for Texas since he was acquired from Seattle in a trade on July 9. Texas has won only three of those games.

Lee (10-8) was gone after five innings and 97 pitches, allowing five runs and seven hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

His ERA is 8.39 over his last four starts, having given up 23 runs and 34 hits in 242/3 innings to hike his overall ERA from 2.44 to 3.26.

Those aren’t the kind of numbers the Rangers expected when they dealt four prospects to the Mariners to make Lee their staff ace.

Lee said he isn’t tired from his workload this season, or from the Texas heat. Lee’s gone seven innings or longer in 19 of his 23 starts in 2010.

“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 had his shortest outing since going four innings for Philadelphia at Atlanta on Sept. 20, 2009. There was a rain delay of almost two hours in that game, and the Phillies didn’t return Lee to the mound when play resumed.

Rangers manager Ron Washington said Lee could be given extra rest before his next start.

“It’s something we’ll certainly consider,” Washington said.

Meanwhile, Liriano allowed two runs and five hits over seven innings, and Delmon Young hit a three-run homer off Lee.

Liriano (12-7) struck out six and walked one to capture his sixth straight decision and snap Texas’ four-game winning streak.

Liriano mixed an effective off-speed pitch with his fastball to keep the Rangers off-balance.

“When I can throw my change-up, things go better for me,” Liriano. “I was getting ahead in the count and focusing on getting the first hitter.”

Minnesota’s Jim Thome, who turns 40 today, hit his 582nd homer, moving one away from tying Mark McGwire for ninth on the career list.