ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) _ Cliff Lee insists there’s no reason to panic despite his recent struggles.
Lee gave up five runs in five innings and was outpitched by Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano as the Twins beat the Texas Rangers 6-4 on Thursday night to avoid a four-game sweep.
“I haven’t been locating pitches as well as I expect myself to and they haven’t missed them,” Lee said. “It’s just been a handful of pitches and they happened to capitalize on them. I’ve got to do a better job of staying out of the heart of the plate. That’s really it.”
Lee fell to 2-5 in his 10 starts for Texas since he was acquired from Seattle in a trade on July 9. Texas has won only three of those games.
Lee (10-8) was gone after five innings and 97 pitches, allowing five runs and seven hits with five strikeouts and one walk.
His ERA is 8.39 over his last four starts, having given up 23 runs and 34 hits in 24 2-3 innings to hike his overall ERA from 2.44 to 3.26.
Those aren’t the kind of numbers the Rangers expected when they dealt four prospects to the Mariners to make Lee their staff ace.
Lee said he isn’t tired from his workload this season, or from the Texas heat. Lee’s gone seven innings or longer in 19 of his 23 starts in 2010.
“I’m a guy who’s expected to take the ball every fifth day and go deep in games,” Lee said. “That’s what I want to do. And for the most part, I’ve done that this year. I’ve just run into a little rough stretch.”
Lee had his shortest outing since going four innings for Philadelphia at Atlanta on Sept. 20, 2009. There was a rain delay of almost two hours in that game, and the Phillies didn’t return Lee to the mound when play resumed.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said Lee could be given extra rest before his next start.
“It’s something we’ll certainly consider,” Washington said.
Meanwhile, Liriano allowed two runs and five hits over seven innings, and Delmon Young hit a three-run homer off Lee.
Liriano (12-7) struck out six and walked one to capture his sixth straight decision and snap Texas’ four-game winning streak.
Liriano mixed an effective off-speed pitch with his fastball to keep the Rangers off-balance.
“When I can throw my changeup, things go better for me,” Liriano. “I was getting ahead in the count and focusing on getting the first hitter.”
Minnesota’s Jim Thome, who turns 40 on Friday, hit his 582nd homer, moving one away from tying Mark McGwire for ninth on the career list.
Texas had won the first three games of the set after Minnesota swept a three-game series from the Rangers May 28-30.
The teams wrap up their season series with three games Sept. 3-5 in Minnesota.
AL West-leading Texas maintained its 8-1/2 game edge over second-place Oakland, which lost to Cleveland earlier Thursday night. Oakland visits Texas for a three-game series starting Friday night.
Matt Capps got three outs for his sixth save in eight chances since he was acquired from the Washington Nationals on July 29.
The AL Central-leading Twins, who ended a three-game skid, kept their 3-1/2 game lead over the second-place Chicago White Sox. Chicago beat Baltimore on Thursday night.
Vladimir Guerrero’s two-run homer in the eighth off Matt Guerrier got Texas within two runs and gave Guerrero three homers in his last five games.
Texas’ Josh Hamilton went 0 for 2 with two strikeouts and two walks as his major league-best average slipped two percentage points to .354.
Minnesota got to Lee in the second when Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer singled and Young ripped an 0-1 changeup into the Twins bullpen in left-center for a 3-0 lead.
“It was right down the middle,” Lee said of Young’s blast. “Looking back, that was the main reason things didn’t go well tonight.”
Cuddyer’s two-run double in the third pushed Minnesota’s edge to 5-0 before Thome’s solo shot in the sixth.
Texas scored twice in the seventh on David Murphy’s RBI single and Andres Blanco’s sacrifice fly.
The Twins left Texas with a good feeling after beating one of the best pitchers in the majors.
“We just came out early and scored some runs early on and stayed on top,” Minnesota’s Orlando Hudson said. “Hopefully we’ll never, ever, ever see him again.”
NOTES: Liriano matched his career high for victories. … Lee’s given up five homers in his last two starts. … Thome, whose 18th homer matched Justin Morneau and Kubel for the team lead, was the DH after being left out of the starting lineup Wednesday night due to a sore right thigh. … Texas 2B Ian Kinsler had his second straight day of strenuous workouts, the next step in his rehab from a strained left groin. Kinsler, who’s been out since July 29, is targeting Sept. 1 to rejoin the lineup. He’s expected to begin a minor league assignment over the weekend. … A 19-year-old female employee of the Rangers was struck by a car while crossing the street near Rangers Ballpark four hours before the game started. The unidentified part-time worker was taken to a Fort Worth hospital and was in good condition on Thursday night.