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Cliff Lee Looks To Bounce Back Against Royals

(Sports Network) -- The Texas Rangers continue to hold a comfortable lead atop the American League's West Division even without a significant contribution from midseason pickup Cliff Lee. The struggling pitcher will attempt to break out of his current funk when he takes the mound for tonight's clash with the Kansas City Royals from Kauffman Stadium.

While the Rangers have been able to extend their advantage over second-place Oakland in the AL West since acquiring Lee from Seattle on July 9, the All- Star left-hander has hardly done his part. In 10 outings following the swap, Lee is just 2-5 with a mediocre 4.50 earned run average and enters this evening's tilt seeking to stop a three-start losing streak.

Lee has been hit hard in all three of those defeats, including a forgettable 5 2/3-inning stint at Baltimore on August 21 in which he was pounded for eight runs and served up four homers. He was only marginally better in his last start, surrendering five runs through five frames in a home loss to Minnesota this past Thursday.

The 2008 AL Cy Young Award recipient, who went 8-3 with an excellent 2.34 ERA in 13 starts with the Mariners prior to the trade, will try to bounce back when he takes on a Kansas City team he's 12-5 lifetime against with a 4.28 ERA in 22 overall meetings. Lee has had good success pitching at Kauffman Stadium in the past, having amassed a 7-2 record with a 3.83 ERA over 13 career visits.

Texas would love to receive a performance out of Lee like the one teammate C.J. Wilson delivered in last night's opener of this three-game series. The converted reliever held the Royals scoreless over 7 2/3 outstanding innings as the Rangers came through with a 3-0 victory which lengthened their lead in the division to 8 1/2 games.

Wilson (14-5) yielded just a single hit over the game's initial seven frames and two overall in posting his seventh straight winning decision. The left- hander hasn't lost in nine starts since a July 11 setback to Baltimore.

"I don't think we've been held to one hit through eight innings in a long time," said Royals outfielder Willie Bloomquist. "[Wilson] pitched a heck of a game."

Darren O'Day came on to record the final out of the eighth before turning the game over to closer Neftali Feliz, with the rookie standout tossing a shutout ninth to notch his 33rd save of the season.

Bengie Molina and Elvis Andrus each had RBI singles as Texas built a 2-0 edge after five innings, with both players collecting a pair of hits on the night. Andres Blanco went 3-for-4 and finished a home run shy of the cycle to help the Rangers halt a brief two-game skid.

Kyle Davies (6-9) pitched well for the Royals but was outdueled by Wilson, with the right-hander working 8 1/3 innings and limiting the Rangers to three runs -- two earned -- while striking out six.

Kansas City has now lost three of its last four contests and six of seven meetings with Texas so far this season. With Monday's result, the Rangers have prevailed in nine of their last 12 games played against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals will attempt to reverse that trend behind Sean O'Sullivan, with the young right-hander vying to build off an encouraging last start. The former Angel pitched a season-best seven innings at Detroit on Wednesday and allowed just three runs on seven hits, although he wound up without a decision in his team's 4-3 win.

O'Sullivan had been acquired from the Angels in late July as part of a trade that sent infielder Alberto Callaspo to Anaheim, but didn't get off to a good beginning with his new club. He went 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA in his first five starts with the Royals before being briefly sent to the bullpen, where he picked up a win against the Chicago White Sox on August 22 with a scoreless inning of relief.

The 22-year-old has come out victorious in both of his career starts against the Rangers, however, both of which took place while with Anaheim last season. O'Sullivan also turned in 2 1/3 scoreless innings out of the pen in a June 30 encounter with Texas, when he also still a member of the Angels.

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