Quite unexpectedly, Colby Lewis has been the Texas Rangers’ most consistent pitcher of late.
It’s a turn of events that not only exemplifies the injury problems to the staff in 2014, but also Lewis’ fortitude. He’ll make his 21st start Monday in the Rangers’ opener against the Tampa Bay Rays at Globe Life Park.
Lewis, 35, is coming off his first shutout since 2011 after holding the White Sox to six hits and a walk last week.
“I don’t want to use the word milestone, but I think it was a significant thing for me,” said Lewis, who had hip resurfacing surgery a year ago this month. “I definitely think it’s something that let me have a little more reassurance.”
Since June 29, Lewis (8-8) has five quality starts, plus a five-inning, two-run outing in the span. No other Rangers pitcher has more than three in that span. Lewis has held opponents to five runs in his last 22 1/3 innings. With 111 1/3 innings pitched, he’s second on the staff to only Yu Darvish.
Has he exceeded manager Ron Washington’s expectations? No, because Washington didn’t have any for Lewis in spring training.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen, but just like everyone else [I felt] if anyone can pull this off it’s going to be Colby. And he’s pulling it off. It was watch and see the whole time,” Washington said.
During spring training, Lewis hoped to return to his previous stature when he was last healthy in 2012. He’s steadily improved throughout the season as he’s gained confidence in his body.
His 5.50 ERA hasn’t reflected the improvement because of one horrible outing July 10, when the Angels tagged him for 11 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. Since then, he’s allowed just seven runs in his last 27 1/3 innings, including the shutout in Chicago, the site of his last shutout in May 2011.
“There’s no subconscious in the back of the head telling me I’ve got other stuff going on. That’s big. There’s nothing that’s bothering me anymore,” he said. “All I have to do is concentrate on getting guys out.”
Holland feels good
Derek Holland was impressive in his third rehab start for Double A Frisco on Saturday night. The lefty struck out four in three innings of scoreless work against Tulsa. He allowed three hits and threw 49 pitches. He’ll increase it to about 60 pitches in his next start on Thursday.
“It is encouraging, not only for us, but him also,” Washington said. “He’s got to keep pitching, keep improving.”
Rios aggravates ankle
Outfielder Alex Rios, who sat out the first two games this weekend to give a nagging right ankle injury some rest, left Sunday’s game in the fourth inning after sliding hard into the catcher at home plate. He’ll be evaluated on Monday in Arlington.
Shin-Soo Choo’s 1,000th career hit, the last of a 4-for-5 night Saturday, is an important milestone for any player, especially his friends and family. He heard from a bunch of them Saturday night. His wife, whom he met in the minors 10 years ago, has seen them all.
“I think it’s more special for her than other people,” he said. “And my parents and a lot of baseball fans in Korea.”
Choo said he wasn’t counting them down, but was aware of the number because he finished the 2013 season with 900 career hits.
“We play so many games, so good games, bad games, that’s over,” he said. “As soon as I leave the clubhouse I’m not thinking about last night.”
Maybe, but he kept the ball and will probably remember Saturday’s moment for a while.
Briefly• Outfielder Mike Carp (strained left groin) felt better Sunday but is still day-to-day. Washington said Carp could be available, if necessary.
• Right-hander Jerome Williams, who was designated for assignment on Friday, was claimed by Philadelphia on Sunday. He’s expected to join the Phillies on Monday.
4-8 The Rangers’ record against the Astros with seven games remaining in the 2014 series. The last time Houston won the Silver Boot was 2006. The teams tied 3-3 in 2007 and Texas has won convincingly the last six years. The Rangers will need to go 6-1 to retain the Lone Star series edge and keep the Boot.
“Their starting pitching is much, much better. The young talent they’ve got over there is starting to come around. It’s still going to take some more years for them to learn how to really win, but they’re going in the right direction. They’re talented. They’ve got some athletes.” — Rangers manager Ron Washington on the improved Astros