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Texas Opens Series With Second Place Oakland

(Sports Network) - Cliff Lee tries to avoid his first losing streak of the season this evening when the Texas Rangers start a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics at the Coliseum.

Lee hasn't lost back-to-back starts all season, but enters tonight's tilt after getting beat by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in his last start to fall to 1-2 with the Rangers. He allowed four runs and nine hits in the complete-game effort and went at least eight innings for the ninth straight start while lowering his American League-leading earned run average to 2.51.

The nine straight starts in which Lee has pitched at least eight innings is the longest such streak in the majors since Pat Hentgen�s 12-game run for Toronto in 1996.

Lee, who is 9-5 overall on the year, had picked up his first win as a Ranger in his previous effort against the A's, as he went nine innings, allowing just an unearned run and five hits, while striking out a career-high 13 in the 3-1, 10-inning win back on July 27. He is 4-2 lifetime against the A's with a 2.26 ERA in 11 games (10 starts).

The Rangers took two of three from Seattle and blanked the Mariners, 6-0, on Thursday behind 6 1/3 scoreless innings from Tommy Hunter. David Murphy homered, while Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz each collected two hits with an RBI for Texas, which had lost three of four before winning the final two games of the series.

Oakland, meanwhile, has kept its fading postseason hopes alive with its strong play at home, where it has won eight of its last 11. The Athletics' strong play in front of their fans continued this week as it kicked off six-game homestand by taking two of three from the Kansas City Royals.

The A's, though, have their work cut out for them, as they still sit 8 1/2 games back of the Rangers in the division.

Hoping to cut into that lead for Oakland tonight will be lefty Dallas Braden, who has won his last two starts. Braden went the distance to beat the Chicago White Sox on Saturday, as he allowed two runs and eight hits to improve to 6-7 to go along with a 3.63 ERA.

Braden lost to the Rangers the last time he faced them and is 1-3 in nine games (six starts) against them with a 3.86 ERA.

Texas has won five of its nine matchups with the A's this season.

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