ARLINGTON, Texas — Cliff Lee was finally complete in Texas, where he struggled so much in the past.
Lee threw a seven-hitter, holding the Rangers scoreless until the ninth inning, to help the Seattle Mariners snap a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Rangers on Monday night.
“I was just locating fastballs, getting ahead in the count, and mixing in a few offspeed pitches here and there and forced them to swing the bat,” Lee said. “That was the extent of it.”
Except, it had never been that easy before for Lee at Rangers Ballpark, where in his six previous starts — one in each season from 2004-09 — the left-hander had a 9.19 ERA and had allowed at least six runs his last three times out.
“You make mistakes, they’ll hit you. This is a hitter’s park. If you miss up, they’ve got some big, strong guys over there who can drive the ball,” Lee said. “It’s a deadly combination if you’re missing out over the plate.”
This time, Lee (4-2) struck out seven and walked none while limiting the Rangers to seven singles. He threw 84 of his 107 pitches for strikes.
“That’s as professional as you can pitch a ball game,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “It was just a gutsy performance in that kind of heat. It was a joy to watch. I said earlier that he was going to go nine to give our bullpen a rest, and that’s what he did.”
Texas didn’t even get a runner past second base until the ninth. Lee pitched at least eight innings for the third game in a row and fifth time this season.
It was the 15th career complete game for Lee and second in his eight starts since the Mariners acquired him from Philadelphia last winter.
Michael Saunders hit a three-run homer for Seattle off Scott Feldman (3-6).
Feldman allowed four runs, three earned, in 5 2-3 innings. He struck out four and walked two while throwing 120 pitches.
After Michael Young and Ian Kinsler had consecutive singles to start the ninth, Vladimir Guerrero flied out deep to center to push a Texas runner to third base for the first time. Josh Hamilton then had an RBI single and another run came home on a fielder’s choice grounder.
A fielding error by Lee extended the game an extra batter, when he wasn’t able to handle first baseman Casey Kotchman’s toss on David Murphy’s grounder to the right side of the infield.
Lee tried to make a barehanded grab, but the ball dropped through his fingers. After Wakamatsu came out to talk with the umpires, and give Lee a second to catch his breath, the game then ended on Matt Treanor’s infield popout.
Lee threw seven scoreless innings in his delayed debut for the Mariners on April 30, but that was a no-decision at Safeco Field after he had started this season on the disabled list. He strained his abdomen during spring training.
When Lee was still with Cleveland at the start of 2009, after winning the AL Cy Young Award the previous season, he gave up seven runs on 10 hits over five innings in a loss at Texas. He was traded to the Phillies midway through last season and hadn’t pitched in Texas again until Monday night.
Lee had retired 10 batters in a row until the singles in the ninth by Young and Kinsler, who was mired in a 2-for-21 slump.
Saunders’ third homer of the season came in the second, putting the Mariners up 3-0.
“That was pretty much the game right there,” Feldman said. “Cliff Lee pitched great and from that point on, I got a little better after the home run. … The home run kind of got me.”
An inning later, the Mariners added an unearned run when Mike Carp reached on an error and scored on Rob Johnson’s single.
Left-hander Matt Harrison threw 3 1-3 scoreless innings after relieving Feldman.
Slumping second baseman Chone Figgins was 3 for 4 hitting from the No. 9 spot for Seattle for the first time. It was his first three-hit game since April 13, raising his average 10 points to .230.
Figgins, who signed a $36 million, four-year contract with Seattle last winter, had made his first 56 starts in the No. 2 spot. He hadn’t been in a starting lineup batting ninth since June 5, 2007, with the Los Angeles Angels, and wasn’t happy about being dropped to the bottom.
“I’ve earned respect as a player,” Figgins said postgame. “I’m still battling and when I’m going good, then I should stay where I was at. There’s nobody who can ever doubt what I do on the field. I come to play every single day no matter what the situation.”