Lewis kept 'em guessing to elude trouble

HOUSTON -- Texas Rangers starter Colby Lewis said he felt great throwing in the bullpen before Monday night’s game at Minute Maid Park.

Once the game started, that changed.

It was difficult to tell by the results, and that’s really what’s important, especially for a pitching staff that has been struggling as of late.

The 34-year-old Lewis, who had offseason hip surgery, used a nasty slider, an adequate fastball and an occasional changeup to keep the Houston Astros guessing.

“This is one of those games that didn’t translate as well as I thought it would from the bullpen to the game,” Lewis said. “I was still able to mix the ball in and out -- the slider was pretty sharp tonight -- and I kept them off balance. Overall it was a good night.”

Meanwhile, 20-year-old rookie Rougned Odor had the best outing of his five-game career with a couple of two-out, run-scoring hits, including an upper-deck homer in the sixth, to register his first RBIs.

Texas 4, Houston 0.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised the Rangers shut down the Astros. This is the third time Texas has shut out Houston in four games this season. Texas has a 1.38 ERA against Houston, and the Rangers now have a league-leading nine shutouts this season.

Texas entered the game ranked 12th in the American League with a 4.57 ERA. Take away the shutouts, and the team’s ERA balloons to 6.08.

Toronto is second in the AL with six shutouts. Houston, the Chicago White Sox and the Boston Red Sox don’t have any.

Go figure.

Lewis kept Houston from scoring, but eluded trouble all night. Houston had at least one baserunner in every inning.

Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos stopped one threat in the third inning by throwing out the trail runner on a double steal to end the inning. Lewis handled the rest with key strikeouts that prevented the Astros from stringing hits together.

Lewis allowed seven hits, while striking out eight and walking two in 5 2/3 innings. He spotted his fastball to get ahead in the count; and when he needed a strikeout, he relied on the slider. He used the changeup to induce a few weak ground balls.

“He’s come a long way since his [hip] surgery in the offseason,” Adrian Beltre said. “Tonight is the Colby we know.

“He’s a guy who throws the ball on the corners and eats a lot of innings. Hopefully, he can find the consistency to do it more often because we’re going to need him coming down the stretch.”

It certainly helped that Beltre gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the third inning with a long homer to left field. Odor's run-scoring single to center made it 3-0 in the fourth. His sixth-inning home run in the sixth made it 4-0.

"He can hit the ball a long way for a small guy," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I'm not surprised, though. I've been throwing him batting practice. I've seen how far he can hit the ball."

Still, this win was about Lewis trying to add some stability to the rotation. Lewis is now 3-2 with a 4.99 ERA in six starts.

Lewis hasn’t pitched six innings yet, but he matched his season high with 5 2/3 innings.

He recognizes progress. For now, that's enough.