(Sports Network) - After having a tough time against one half of the Seattle Mariners' dynamite starting pitching duo on Monday, the Texas Rangers will try their luck against the formidable Felix Hernandez when the two American League West members resume a three-game set tonight at Rangers Ballpark.
Seattle halted a string of three straight losses behind a terrific performance out of Cliff Lee in last night's series opener, with the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner going the distance on a seven-hitter to lead the Mariners to a 4-2 triumph.
Lee (4-2) took a shutout into the ninth inning and struck out seven without issuing a walk in recording his second complete game of the season. The standout lefty threw a crisp 84-of-107 pitches for strikes and clearly wasn't affected by the sweltering Texas heat.
"It was definitely hot, that's for sure," Lee said afterward. "In my mind, when it's that hot I've got to make sure I throw first-pitch strikes, get ahead in the count."
Lee got all the support he would need on Michael Saunders' three-run homer in the second inning. Rob Johnson added an RBI single in the third and went 2- for-4 for Seattle, which kicked off a 10-game road trip and won for only the eight time in 25 away outings this season.
While Lee was cruising, Rangers starter Scott Feldman (3-6) labored through a 5 2/3-inning stint in which he was reached for four runs (three earned) on nine hits and threw a whopping 120 pitches.
"I got better after the second [inning], but that was pretty much it," Feldman told the Rangers' official site. "I got ahead of some guys, but I couldn't finish them off. I have to do a better job of finishing guys off."
Texas lost for the second straight time and fell out of first place in the competitive AL West, with Anaheim's victory over Oakland on Monday moving the red-hot Angels a half-game in front of the Rangers.
The Rangers figure to have their hands full again this evening, with Hernandez now back in top form after experiencing a mild early-season slump. The 2009 AL Cy Young Award runner-up has posted a 2.00 ERA over his last five starts and allowed two earned runs or fewer in three of those assignments.
Hernandez was finally able to put a frustrating seven-start winless streak behind him by limiting Minnesota to one run on five hits and striking out nine batters over eight excellent innings this past Thursday. The ace right-hander has equally as good his previous time out, yielding a run and fanning seven in eight sharp frames against the Angels on May 29, but wound up stuck with a no- decision in an eventual extra-inning loss by the Mariners.
The talented 24-year-old hasn't fared that well when facing the Rangers over his career, however. Hernandez is just 8-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 24 career starts against Texas and was hit hard by the Rangers back on May 1, surrendering five runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings of a 6-3 loss at Safeco Field.
Hernandez did pitch an effective seven innings against Texas in Arlington on April 10, but received a no-decision in a 4-3 Seattle win despite holding the Rangers to three runs -- two earned -- and striking out five with just one walk.
Colby Lewis gets the call for Texas tonight and will be out to end a personal two-start losing streak. The right-hander was hurt by the long ball in his most recent mound trip, serving up three homers and permitting four runs in 6 1/3 innings in a 4-3 road setback to the Chicago White Sox last Thursday. That followed a six-inning effort at Minnesota on May 28 in which he was dealt a defeat despite allowing two runs on five hits.
Lewis has been a pleasant surprise for Texas, which signed the journeyman in the offseason following a two-year run in Japan. The 30-year-old has recorded a solid 3.62 ERA in 11 starts and struck out 66 batters over 69 2/3 innings in addition to holding the opposition to a .211 average.
Perhaps the best two starts of Lewis' comeback season have come against the Mariners. He fired seven shutout innings of one-run ball to beat the Mariners in Arlington in his 2010 debut, then later gave up a mere three hits and struck out 10 through nine shutout innings in an April 30 matchup at Safeco Field. Lewis got a no-decision that night, though, after leaving a duel with Lee with the game still scoreless.
In 12 career appearances (eight starts) against Seattle, Lewis is 3-2 with a 3.95 ERA.
Texas had won five of the first six meetings between these divisional foes this season prior to last night's loss and is 11-5 over its last 16 bouts with the Mariners held at Rangers Ballpark.