(Sports Network) - Cliff Lee returns to Seattle for the first time since being traded to Texas, as the Rangers try to move one step closer to an American League West title in the middle test of their three-game set with the Mariners at Safeco Field.
Lee, of course, was acquired by the Mariners this past offseason to give them a shot at an AL West crown. Things, though, never panned out for Lee in Seattle and the former Cy Young Award winner was traded to the Rangers shortly before the All-Star break.
The talented left-hander has had his ups-and-downs while with the Rangers, but was sensational in beating the New York Yankees on Sunday, as he held them to a run and two hits in eight innings to improve to 11-8 on the year with a 3.28 earned run average.
"He was able to get out there and relax a little bit. And he's healthy," Texas manager Ron Washington said of Lee, who had missed a start because of a bad back. "He was very efficient."
He had struggled in his previous four starts, allowing 26 runs in 23 innings.
Lee has dominated the Mariners in his career, going 9-1 against them with a 3.28 ERA in 13 games, 12 of which have been starts.
Texas did not help its cause any in Friday's opener, as Felix Hernandez took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and Seattle held on for a 2-1 win to snap a seven-game losing streak.
Nelson Cruz broke up Hernandez's bid with a leadoff homer in the eighth, but that was the only run surrendered by the right-hander. He ended up allowing three total hits, walked one and struck out eight over eight frames.
"As soon as that ball was hit, that ball, he got every bit of it," Mariners catcher Adam Moore said of Cruz's homer. "But, you continue to do what you got to do. He gave up another couple hits, but nothing was getting in front of him today from getting a win."
Hernandez (12-11) walked Elvis Andrus to start the game, but retired 21 in a row before Cruz's homer. His performance lowered his ERA to 2.35, and was remarkable also because he had not had much success against Texas this season. In four prior starts, he had gone going 0-3 with a 6.38 ERA.
C.J. Wilson (14-7) turned in a solid start for the Rangers, limiting Seattle to two runs in eight innings. He gave up six hits, walked three and struck out six, but also threw a wild pitch that scored a run.
With second-place Oakland beating Minnesota on Friday, Texas' magic number for clinching their first division title since 1999 remained at eight.
Seattle, meanwhile, will rely on left-hander Jason Vargas, who is 9-10 with a 3.62 ERA. Vargas lost his fifth straight start on Sunday in Anaheim, despite pitching well, as he allowed two runs (one earned) and seven hits in seven innings of a 3-0 loss.
Vargas beat the Rangers the last time he faced them and is 1-2 lifetime against them with a 5.40 ERA in six games (four starts).
Logic would suggest that the Rangers would have a good chance to reduce their magic number further in this series. Texas has prevailed in 10 of 14 meetings with the last-place Mariners this season, including five of the seven games held at Safeco Field.