Hunter will start on Friday against the Angels in lieu of Derek Holland, who won't be starting again this season. Hunter joins Lee, Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson in the Rangers' postseason rotation.
"He'll go as long as he's effective," manager Ron Washington said. "He's a kid that competes."
Hunter has had bouts of inconsistency this year, but sports an impressive 13-4 record despite making his season debut on June 5. In his latest start, Hunter threw 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball against the A's on Sept. 24 in a 10-3 victory.
The Rangers are also expected to get an added boost from AL Most Valuable Player candidate Josh Hamilton. Washington said Hamilton will play in the final three regular season games after sitting out nearly four weeks with two broken ribs.
While the Rangers are caught up in their playoff plans, the Angels are far from it. Engaged in a battle for second place in the AL West with Oakland, Los Angeles will watch the postseason from home for the first time since 2006.
"No matter what happens this weekend, it's been a frustrating season," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think we're all disappointed where we are. There's some room for improvement, and that's what we're going to look into. We'll continue to try to win games every day. The quest for a championship never stops, even after you've been eliminated. You start working on the next one."
Jered Weaver would like to close his season on a high note. Not only does he have a chance to win his 14th decision and finish with a sub-3 ERA, but he sits three strikeouts behind Felix Hernandez -- who will not start on Sunday -- for the Major League lead.
Angels: Haren may not start the finale
Los Angeles is unsure whether Dan Haren, who has pitched 222 innings this year, will start the season finale against the Rangers on Sunday.
"Dan threw a bullpen and felt good," Scioscia said. "We'll see where we are on Sunday. He's got a lot of innings under his belt, that's for sure."
Rangers: Murphy sitting
Outfielder David Murphy will sit out the weekend series with a strained left groin muscle, but he is expected to be ready for the ALDS.
"It's definitely something that's going to be manageable," Murphy said. "Right now, I'm just going to wait a few days, and we'll figure out where to go from there -- if I need to get a cortisone shot. ... It's sore right now, but for a strained muscle, there are a lot of reasons for optimism."
Texas infielder Jorge Cantu and outfielder Jeff Francoeur sat out of Thursday's contest due to illnesses. ... Hamilton is expected to play six innings in the field on Friday before being designated hitter on Saturday and playing in the field again on Sunday. ... The Angels announced a two-year player development deal Thursday with Class A Advanced Inland Empire.
Fri, 10/1 8:05 PM ET
Hamilton returns, but Rangers fall to Halos in 11
Josh Hamilton went 0-for-3 in his return for the Rangers, who rallied in the ninth on a double-steal to tie the score before Angels slugger Juan Rivera ended matters with his second homer of the game in the 11th.
|Izturis, M, 2B||4||0||1||1||1||0||1||.250|
|Hunter, To, RF||5||1||1||1||0||2||5||.283|
|Rivera, J, 1B||5||2||2||2||0||0||1||.254|
|b-Kendrick, H, PH||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||.280|
1-Ran for Napoli in the 8th. 2-Ran for Matsui in the 9th.
|Young, M, 3B||6||0||0||0||0||3||6||.282|
|Cruz, N, RF||5||0||1||0||0||1||2||.316|
|Molina, B, C||4||0||3||1||0||0||0||.248|
1-Ran for Molina, B in the 9th.
2B: Abreu (41, Hunter, T), Willits (7, Lowe, M).
HR: Hunter, To (23, 4th inning off Hunter, T, 0 on, 1 out), Rivera, J 2 (15, 9th inning off Lowe, M, 0 on, 2 out; 11th inning off Harrison, 0 on, 1 out).
TB: Bourjos; Izturis, M; Abreu 2; Mathis; Hunter, To 4; Matsui; Callaspo; Rivera, J 8; Willits 2; Kendrick, H.
RBI: Hunter, To (89), Bourjos (14), Izturis, M (27), Rivera, J 2 (52).
2-out RBI: Izturis, M; Rivera, J.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Hunter, To 2; Romine; Trumbo.
Team RISP: 1-for-6.
Team LOB: 7.
CS: Izturis, M (3, 2nd base by Nippert/Molina, B).
2B: Andrus (15, Weaver).
HR: Moreland 2 (9, 5th inning off Weaver, 0 on, 2 out; 7th inning off Weaver, 0 on, 1 out).
TB: Andrus 3; Cruz, N; Moreland 8; Molina, B 3.
RBI: Moreland 2 (25), Molina, B (35).
2-out RBI: Moreland.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Guerrero; Cruz, N; Young, M 2; Kinsler.
Team RISP: 1-for-13.
Team LOB: 10.
SB: German (4, 2nd base off Rodney/Mathis), Moreland (3, home off Rodney/Mathis).
DP: (Young, M-Andrus-Moreland).
HBP: Kinsler (by Rodney), Teagarden (by Cassevah).
Pitches-strikes: Weaver 87-59, Jepsen 8-6, Rodney 29-14, Thompson 20-11, Cassevah 6-1, Kohn 12-9, Hunter, T 60-41, Nippert 27-13, Kirkman 23-10, Ogando 3-3, Lowe, M 21-12, Harrison 27-18.
Groundouts-flyouts: Weaver 7-4, Jepsen 2-1, Rodney 1-1, Thompson 1-1, Cassevah 0-0, Kohn 1-0, Hunter, T 8-6, Nippert 0-3, Kirkman 1-1, Ogando 0-0, Lowe, M 1-0, Harrison 2-4.
Batters faced: Weaver 28, Jepsen 3, Rodney 7, Thompson 4, Cassevah 2, Kohn 3, Hunter, T 18, Nippert 6, Kirkman 6, Ogando 1, Lowe, M 5, Harrison 9.
Inherited runners-scored: Kohn 2-0, Ogando 2-0.
Umpires: HP: Ed Rapuano. 1B: Tom Hallion. 2B: Mark Ripperger. 3B: Lance Barksdale.
Weather: 79 degrees, clear.
Wind: 0 mph, None.
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media