Colby Lewis was a key member of the rotation as the Texas Rangers made back-to-back trips to the World Series in 2010 and '11 before elbow surgery ended his next season prematurely.
After a year off and a rocky start to 2014, he's beginning to remind manager Ron Washington of his better days.Lewis looks to continue his solid stretch as the Rangers host the Tampa Bay Rays in the opener of a four-game set Monday night.The right-hander made 32 starts for each of Texas' AL championship teams, but he was forced to have the second Tommy John surgery of his career in July 2012.Lewis (8-8, 5.50 ERA) missed all of 2013 to recover and saw his ERA balloon to 6.54 after giving up a career-worst 13 runs in a loss to the Los Angeles Angels on July 10. In four starts since, though, he's gone 2-2 with a 2.30 ERA and recorded the second shutout of his career while allowing six hits in a 16-0 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday.His previous shutout came June 16, 2011 -- also against the White Sox."Colby Lewis was the show (Tuesday)," Washington said. "I mean, he executed his pitches as well I have seen see him execute them. He never lost focus. He looked like the Colby we used to know."Lewis looks to keep rolling as he opposes Drew Smyly, who will be making his second start for the Rays (57-60) after coming over from Detroit in the David Price trade at the deadline.Smyly (6-10, 3.98) allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 3-0 loss to Oakland on Tuesday, and he wasn't very sharp while throwing 107 pitches. It marked the fifth time this season he's thrown at least 100 while pitching fewer than six full innings."I think I'm real comfortable around everybody," Smyly said of adjusting to his new team. "(Hopefully) we can go to Texas and get some wins."Manager Joe Maddon knows Smyly is no Price, but he was impressed with the left-hander's first outing."I thought he made good pitches when he had to," Maddon said. "I thought he and (catcher Curt) Casali worked well together. I thought, for a first time out, it was pretty darn good."Smyly faced the Rangers in relief May 22 then gave up an unearned run in six innings of an 8-2 victory June 24 while with the Tigers. He's 1-1 with a 2.96 ERA in three starts and five relief appearances against Texas (46-71), which had lost six of eight before beating Houston 6-2 on Sunday.Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo homered as the Rangers completed a nine-game road trip. Beltre likely is looking forward to this seven-game homestand, as he's hitting .367 in Arlington compared to .285 on the road.The Rays are returning to Texas for the first time since winning a one-game, regular-season playoff for the AL's second wild-card spot on Sept. 30, and they're desperately trying to remain in that race this season despite trading Price.Tampa Bay had a three-game winning streak snapped with Sunday's 3-2, 12-inning loss to the Chicago Cubs. Casali and Desmond Jennings each had two hits.Rangers outfield Alex Rios missed the previous two games with a sprained right ankle, then aggravated it again Sunday before leaving in the fourth inning. He'll be evaluated to determine his status for this contest.
Opposing hitters have a .292 batting average against Drew Smyly's fastball when he leaves it in the upper two-thirds of the strike zone or higher, which is 21 points higher than the league average among pitchers with at least 10 starts. Adrian Beltre has a .216 batting average against such pitches, which is 27 points above the league average among qualified hitters.