08/26/10 1:29 AM ET
Lee duels with Liriano seeking sweep
By Bailey Stephens / MLB.com
That's certainly the case on Thursday night as the first-place Rangers and Twins wrap up their four-game series with an aces affair as Cliff Lee is slated to square off against Francisco Liriano.
In a potential playoff preview, both left-handed starters will be looking to regain their top form, after enduring some uncharacteristic struggles of late. The importance of this contest is magnified by the fact that both clubs need their pitchers to return to their dominant selves for the stretch run.
Lee just hasn't been himself since being acquired from the Mariners. The veteran lefty is 0-2 with an 8.24 ERA in his past three starts and more importantly, the Rangers are just 3-6 in games he's started since the trade.
In his most recent stumble, Lee allowed eight runs to the Orioles on four home runs. An aggressive approach and lackluster location led to a rough outing. But despite the lack of wins in a Rangers uniform, Lee as the anchor of his rotation, isn't allowing himself to get discouraged.
"I'm not really frustrated, I'm disappointed in the result. Things like that happen," Lee said. "I know why it happened. ... I'm not frustrated, no."
His manager Ron Washington offered support for the hurler, affirming the key role that Lee plays in the Rangers' rotation.
"I don't care how good you are -- there will be days you go out there and things don't go your way," Washington said. "I'm just as high on Cliff Lee from the day we got him to today after his outing. It happens."
It hasn't been quite as rocky of a road for Liriano, although the southpaw has allowed four earned runs or more in two of his past three starts, but that comes after winning four straight decisions. His most recent struggles came against the White Sox, the squad the Twins will have to hold off down the stretch. Liriano allowed five runs in five innings. With the pressure of a pennant race bearing down on him, Liriano couldn't find the handle, walking four batters.
"I was kind of rushing too much and trying to over-do things," Liriano said. "It was one of those days where you couldn't find yourself and locate your pitches."
Against the Rangers on Thursday, the pressure cooker will be in a full gear with two front-running teams gunning for momentum and possibly an edge in home-field advantage for the playoffs.
Twins: Flores claimed off waivers
Needing another left-handed presence in the bullpen, the Twins bolstered their relief corps by claiming lefty Randy Flores off waivers from the Rockies on Wednesday. Minnesota had been on the lookout for another southpaw to handle situational duties and Flores fit the bill, making just $650,000 this season and scheduled to be a free agent at season's end. Manager Ron Gardenhire was happy to hear of the addition of Flores, who was a member of the Cards' 2006 World Series team. "He knows how to pitch," Gardenhire said. "He can spin the ball. I've watched video of him today already, he can locate. He can pitch inside on lefties, and he can spin it. He knows what he's doing; he's got a track record."
Rangers: No fear for southpaws
The Rangers are in the middle of a five-game stretch against left-handed starters. After facing Brian Duensing on Wednesday and Liriano on Thursday, Texas is scheduled to see three straight southpaws in Oakland. The Rangers are 20-18 on the season against left-handers, but going into Thursday, they've lost five of six against them. Count Washington among those who aren't concerned about the splits. "I don't feel like we have a weakness against anybody," Washington said. "I know the numbers say we don't do well against them, but we've gone out there and tattooed left-handers. The numbers say we don't, but I say it's time."
The Twins have posted a .273 batting average vs. left-handers this season, the second highest average in the American League and third highest in baseball. ... Josh Hamilton tagged his 30th homer of the season on Wednesday.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.