If Colby Lewis can continue a career-long trend of success against the Houston Astros, the Rangers will leave Thursday night's game with a 2 1/2-game lead in the AL West and a four-game sweep of their heated divisional and in-state rival Houston Astros.
Lewis has pitched very well against the Astros over the course of his career, and for the most part, he's done the same in 2015 as he's put up a career-high 15 wins with a chance for 16 on Thursday night.
His last start against Houston, back at the beginning of August, wasn't pretty, but it ended in a win as the Rangers won 12-9 while Lewis allowed seven runs on 10 hits in six innings of work. But his three other starts against the Astros this year have been really solid — all lasting at least into the eighth inning, including one outing of eight innings with just one run allowed.
After three straight bad outings, Lewis rebounded on Friday night with a masterful complete-game shutout of the last-place A's in which he took a perfect game into the eighth inning before finishing his night allowing just two hits.
He has allowed 24 home runs this year, and the Astros make their living on the long ball, as evidenced by the high number of stranded baserunners they've had in the first three games of the series. In fact, they've only hit two homers in the series so far, and that was Jose Altuve in the first inning of Monday's game and a late Evan Gattis bomb Wednesday when the game was well out of hand.
If Lewis can keep the ball in the park, he'll be fine. Otherwise, he might have to rely on his bats to pick him up — something they've been very good at this year given his 15 wins and his 4.45 ERA. The way the Rangers bats are going right now, you have to feel Lewis is pretty confident going into a big game.