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Lee, Rangers Play Host To Rival Angels

(Sports Network) -- The Texas Rangers acquired Cliff Lee to help end the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's reign of dominance in the American League West. The All-Star hurler gets his first crack at the three-time defending division champions since his blockbuster trade to Texas when the first-place Rangers return home tonight to begin a critical four-game series between these two rivals.

The Rangers made the biggest in-season move of the summer when they obtained Lee from the Seattle Mariners in a six-player swap on July 9. Not only did Texas get the front-line pitcher the team had been seeking to head its rotation, but a player who's had considerable success when opposing the Angels over the past few years.

Lee has won his last four starts against Anaheim, including a May 28 triumph while with the Mariners in which he yielded three runs (two earned) and struck out 10 over eight sharp innings, and owns a 6-3 record with a 3.18 earned run average in nine lifetime encounters with the Halos.

The two-time All-Star and 2008 AL Cy Young Award honoree hasn't been nearly as good pitching at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, however. Lee has produced a subpar 7.33 ERA in eight starts at his new home and struggled there in his Texas debut back on July 10. Facing the last-place Baltimore Orioles, the standout lefty allowed six runs and served up three homers in a complete-game loss.

Lee was back in form this past Saturday, when he held Boston to two runs and six hits over nine innings at Fenway Park. The 31-year-old still wasn't able to garner his first victory with his new club, though, with the Red Sox eventually prevailing in 11 innings that night.

In 15 overall starts with the Rangers and Mariners, Lee has produced an 8-4 record and a 2.59 ERA that currently tops the American League.

The Angels counter Lee's presence with their own staff ace, as Jered Weaver has been lined up to pitch tonight's opener. The right-hander garnered his first career All-Star nod with an excellent first half and enters this evening's clash off another strong performance in his most recent time out.

Against Seattle on Friday, Weaver surrendered just two runs and did not walk a batter over seven effective innings in leading the Halos to a 3-2 verdict. The effort improved the former first-round draft pick's 2010 ledger to 9-5 and lowered his ERA to a very-solid 3.16 over 20 starts.

Weaver also turned in a gem against the Rangers back on July 1, limiting Texas to two hits and a pair of walks through seven shutout frames to notch another win. He's 5-3 lifetime versus the Rangers and has pitched to a 3.62 ERA in 16 meetings with tonight's foe.

Like Lee, Weaver has had his problems when operating at Rangers Ballpark, however. The 27-year-old is just 1-3 with a 4.59 over eight career visits to Arlington and the Angels have been dealt defeats in each of his last six starts there. In a road matchup with Texas on May 18, Weaver was tagged for a season-high seven runs and gave up three homers before being lifted after 4 2/3 innings.

Anaheim enters this important set trailing the Rangers by five games in the standings and missed out on an opportunity to close the gap on Wednesday. The club suffered a 10-6 setback to the AL East-leading New York Yankees, with the reigning world champions battering Angels pitching for three home runs and a total of 15 hits.

Joel Pineiro (10-7) permitted six runs and 11 of those hits over the first six innings to have a string of seven consecutive winning decisions snapped. The Yankees later broke open the contest by scoring four times off Scot Shields in the seventh, with the veteran reliever allowing a pair of homers in his lone inning of work.

"Momentum changes are very evident in a game," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said afterward. "Give [the Yankees] some credit. They swung the bat well and [Scot] Shields couldn't get through the seventh inning and obviously put the game in a little different light."

Ex-Yankee Hideki Matsui and Bobby Wilson each had two-run homers for Anaheim, which was coming off a 10-2 rout of the Yankees on Tuesday and had won four of five out of the All-Star break before faltering yesterday.

The Rangers also lost on Wednesday, with Detroit's Max Scherzer firing seven shutout innings to lead the Tigers to a 4-1 decision at Comerica Park that stopped Texas' three-game win streak.

The AL West front-runners mustered a mere four hits for the game, with Josh Hamilton's RBI ground out in the ninth inning preventing a potential shutout.

"We felt flat in the dugout. Don't know why we felt that way," Hamilton admitted afterward. "We weren't in the game as much from the start as we needed to be. That's something we can't do, especially if you want to make the postseason, be there at the end."

Colby Lewis (9-6) did turn in seven innings for the Rangers in a losing cause, with the right-hander reached for four runs on nine hits and recording five strikeouts.

Texas owns a 3-2 edge thus far in this year's season series and swept a two- game set from the Angels in Arlington back in May. Anaheim has lost in eight of 11 visits to Rangers Ballpark since the start of last season.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.