ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 22: Pitcher Cliff Lee #33 of the Texas Rangers throws against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on July 22, 2010 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Cliff Lee
This time, Cliff Lee was rewarded for a quality start with his 99th career win.
Lee allowed five hits over 8 1-3 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, but he went nine innings. Lee lasted 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.
Napoli homered for the Angels in the seventh to narrow the deficit to 3-2.
Texas' Ian Kinsler went 1 for 4 to stretch his hitting streak to 15 games.
Young hit a one-out solo homer in the first inning.
Napoli was the Angels' only baserunner over the first four innings with a one-out single in the second.
Hideki Matsui doubled with one out in the fifth, advancing to third on a fly ball. Matsui scored on Maicer Izturis' double to tie it at 1.
NOTES: Lee is scheduled to start against the Angels in Anaheim on Aug. 1. ... Lee has gone at least eight innings in seven straight starts. ... Earlier Thursday, the Angels acquired 3B Alberto Callaspo from Kansas City for RHP Sean O'Sullivan and minor league LHP Will Smith. Callaspo will report to the Angels on Friday and is expected to be their everyday 3B. ... At 56-40, Texas ties the 1999 team for the best 96-game record in Rangers history. ... Rangers LHP Derek Holland will make a rehab start on Friday for the team's entry in the Arizona Rookie League. Holland has been on the 15-day DL since June 1 with left rotator cuff inflammation. If Holland gets through Friday's start with no problems, he'll move on to a minor league start at a higher classification. ... The Angels are curtailing pregame practice on the field during the four-game series to lessen the impact of triple-digit afternoon heat. ... Of the crowd of 39,876, about 8,600 bought tickets on the day of the game.