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Lee serves up four jacks for first time in loss

Lee serves up four jacks for first time in loss

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BALTIMORE -- Cliff Lee didn't mince words after a most un-Cliff Lee-like performance, and Texas' lefty ace said there was little mystery to his ineffectiveness Saturday in an 8-6 loss to Baltimore.

Instead of taming the resurgent Orioles and starting a new winning streak for the Rangers, Lee served up a career-high four home runs -- two to rookie Josh Bell, who drove in five runs -- in his shortest outing of the year. Texas fell to 3-6 in the nine games he's started since being acquired in a July 9 trade from Seattle.

"I missed my location several times and they made me pay for it," said Lee, who had worked at least six innings in each of his first 21 starts of 2010. "That was really it. They were being aggressive, I missed out over the plate and they got hits. That was the story of the game."

Lee (10-7), who carried a 4-1 record in six lifetime starts against the Orioles into the game, allowed as many homers in the first four innings as he had in his eight starts for Texas since the trade. He lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowing eight runs on 10 hits, walking one and striking out four. The eight earned runs tied Lee's career high.

"Every time we locate the ball, we did good," said Rangers catcher Bengie Molina. "When we missed, they didn't miss. ... It kind of caught me by surprise a little."

Of the 13 homers Lee has surrendered this season, seven have come in two games against the Orioles. His previous high mark for 2010 was in his first start for the Rangers on July 10, when the O's went deep three times in a 6-1 victory. The same approach paid dividends again for Baltimore batters, who have battered Lee for an 8.59 ERA in his last two starts against them. In his other 20 starts this year, Lee has worked to a 2.59 ERA.

"Both times [the aggressive approach] worked, and both times I was missing out over the plate. If I make my pitches and keep the ball down a little more, it's probably a different result," Lee said. "Missing up out over the plate, those things are going to happen."

The Rangers were hoping for better results when they dealt for Lee three weeks ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Instead, they are now left to ponder the reality that at least one team has Lee's number -- and it's not even one of the heavy hitters Texas might expect to face in the playoffs. Lee said he's happy with the way he's pitched in a Rangers uniform and pointed out that wins and losses are beyond his control.

"I'm not really frustrated, I'm disappointed in the result. Things like that happen," Lee said. "I know why it happened. ... I'm not frustrated, no."

Nor are Lee's teammates and manager, who still see him as the veteran anchor the rotation needs.

"They've swung the bat on him twice. ... They're swinging. They know he's going to throw strikes and they did a good job of swinging the bat," said left fielder Josh Hamilton, who homered and drove in three runs. "How many innings did he give us? ... It happens. He's human. It doesn't seem like it sometimes, but it's baseball."

Added manager Ron Washington: "I don't care how good you are -- there will be days you go out there and things don't go your way. I'm just as high on Cliff Lee from the day we got him to today after his outing. It happens."

The afternoon after they halted a four-game losing streak in a 2-0 victory, the Rangers fell short despite notching 12 hits. Hamilton hit his 27th homer, a two-run shot in the seventh to make it 8-5, and Mitch Moreland's RBI double in the eighth shaved the deficit to two runs. Baltimore right-hander Brad Bergesen (5-9) went seven innings, allowing five runs on nine hits, walking two and fanning three. Koji Uehara got the final three outs for his first career save.

Lee breezed through two innings before running into trouble in the third, when the Orioles grabbed a 2-0 lead. Felix Pie led off with a single to right-center field and Bell slammed an 0-1 fastball over the wall in center for his first Major League home run -- the first surrendered by Lee in six starts.

The Rangers knotted the score in the fourth. Hamilton hit a leadoff single and scored on Vladimir Guerrero's double to right-center. Guerrero moved to third on David Murphy's groundout and came home on a Molina sacrifice fly.

Baltimore homered three times off Lee in a five-run fourth for a 7-2 lead. Ty Wigginton and Luke Scott went back-to-back with one out. Pie singled with two outs, stole second and went to third on Craig Tatum's infield single before Bell launched Lee's first offering deep to center for a three-run shot.

In the Texas fifth, Andres Blanco's leadoff walk and one-out singles by Elvis Andrus and Michael Young loaded the bases. But the most the Rangers could get out of the rally was a run-scoring groundout by Hamilton. Andrus' single extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

"[Lee] doesn't make many mistakes, and when he does you better take advantage of them," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "Today, we did."

The six losses when Lee pitches follow a consistent pattern: The Rangers struggle to score runs to take the pressure off their ace. Texas has managed 16 runs for Lee in the six setbacks.

"We haven't put runs on the board for [Lee]," Washington said. "That's one thing I expect us to do is score runs."

Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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