ARLINGTON, Texas — Colby Lewis and the Texas Rangers are settling into a nice rhythm.
Lewis put together his fourth consecutive quality start and the Rangers continued to score runs in bunches as they completed a sweep of the Houston Astros with a 9-3 victory in front of a sellout crowd at Rangers Ballpark on Sunday.
Texas finished the homestand with a 5-1 record and has won seven of its past nine games. The Rangers are 13 games over .500 for just the second time this year and are only one game off the pace for the best start in club history.
Lewis (6-5) has led the surge after Texas got off to a slow start ino June. Sunday, he allowed just three hits in seven innings and struck out 10. He’s been able to lower his ERA over his past four starts from 3.58 to 3.00 and has pitched at least 6-2/3 innings in all four of those outings.
Lewis threw 92 pitches in seven innings against the Astros, but he knew where they were going as 70 of them went for strikes. He set the tone early by striking out the side in the first.
Lewis got into trouble in the second inning after back-to-back singles put runners on the corners with none out, but he struck out Justin Maxwell and Jason Castro before getting Matt Downs to ground out to end the inning.
“Overall it was a good day,” Lewis said. “I was able to hang around for the offense to put up a big number in the sixth. It was a good day.”
Despite the strong outing by Lewis, the Rangers trailed 1-0 after five innings after a walk, a wild pitch and a single gave Houston a run in the top of the fifth.
But as they’ve done throughout most of this homestand, the Rangers were able to put together a big inning. Friday, in the series opener, it was a five-run fifth. Saturday, it was a five-run sixth. Sunday, it was a seven-run sixth.
Texas had just three hits through five innings off left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who was making his big-league debut. But the Rangers finally got things going in the sixth.
Nelson Cruz opened the inning with a single, ending the day for Keuchel. A couple of walks ended up loaded the bases for Texas with two outs for Ian Kinsler. Kinsler popped out in the third inning with the bases loaded but didn’t miss his chance in the sixth.
His three-run triple to left-center off Fernando Rodriguez (1-7) gave Texas a 3-0 edge and the next five Rangers also reached. Michael Young had an RBI single and Adrian Beltre blasted a two-run homer to put Texas up 7-1.
“It seems like someone’s got to come up with the big hit every day lately for us,” said Kinsler, who finished 2 for 5. “Any way I can help the team, I felt like that was a big hit for us and kind of put over the edge and gave us control of the game for Colby and the way he was going. I was definitely excited about it.”
The big inning was more than enough support for Lewis and the Rangers, who recorded their fourth series sweep of the season.
The Rangers finished the game with 12 hits, and eight players had at least one. It’s that kind of balanced attack that makes the Rangers so dangerous. While lately they’ve had to wait for the big inning, at least now they believe one is coming.
“We’ve been facing guys we never face and it’s been tough,” said Elvis Andrus, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a stolen base. “It takes us the first at-bat to check them out. We want to stay aggressive. We did a really good job. We had a big inning and Colby took it from there. We’re not at our best right now on offense, but we’re winning.”
Texas manager Ron Washington believes the key has been good starting pitching, which has allowed the offense time to find its groove. The Rangers got quality starts in all three games against Houston. Lewis provided the most dominating of the three, moving into fifth place in franchise history with 10, 10-strikeout games.
“His outing was outstanding,” Washington said. “We had opportunities early against Keuchel. The kid made some pitches, although they were with two outs. But Colby stayed steadfast and kept us around until we finally put something together, and we did.”