Arlington, TX (Sports Network) – Cliff Lee set a career high with 13 strikeouts over nine brilliant innings and Nelson Cruz belted a two-run, game- winning home run in the bottom of the 10th, as the Texas Rangers edged the Oakland Athletics, 3-1, in the opener of a three-game series.
Lee did not factor in the decision, but he was the story of the game nonetheless. He allowed one unearned run on five hits and did not issue a walk for the Rangers, who have won four of their last five contests.
Kurt Suzuki drove in the only run for Oakland, which entered this series as winners in nine of its last 11 games overall.
Josh Hamilton drew a one-out walk off Michael Wuertz (2-2). The next batter was Cruz, who buried a hanging slider into the seats in left field as the Rangers bench cleared and celebrated around home plate.
The blast by Cruz — his 14th homer of the season — made a winner of Neftali Feliz (2-2).
The Rangers opened an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Michael Young worked a one-out walk and after Ian Kinsler fouled out, Vladimir Guerrero hit a double to right field which brought home Young.
Lee retired the first six Oakland batters in a row, but yielded a pair of singles in the third. Daric Barton, however, lined out to end the threat.
In both the fourth and fifth frames, Lee was perfect again before the A’s knotted the contest in the top of the sixth. Coco Crisp reached first via a one-out infield single, stole second base and moved to third on Bengie Molina’s wild throw before coming in on an RBI single by Suzuki.
Lee continued to deal into the later innings. The southpaw posted a 1-2-3 seventh and did the same in the top of the eighth — that one came in the form of three consecutive strikeouts.
In the visitors’ ninth, Kevin Kouzmanoff stroked a two-out single, but pinch- hitter Landon Powell grounded out.
Chris Davis drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth, was bunted to second by Julio Borbon and headed for third when Elvis Andrus hit a grounder to the right side of the infield. Young was then intentionally walked but Kinsler — with a 3-0 count — swung at a high, outside pitch and fouled out.
Lee tied Jamie Moyer (1989) for the most strikeouts in a game by a Rangers left-hander and is the first Rangers twirler to notch 13 strikeouts in an outing since Aaron Sele in 1999. Incredibly, he has pitched at least eight innings in eight straight starts, some of which were with Seattle…Gio Gonzalez started for Oakland and allowed one run on five hits with six strikeouts and three walks in six innings…The Rangers left 11 men on base.