ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' pitching staff is becoming harder to forecast than Texas weather. One day, the Rangers are in full-panic Apocalypse Now mode over their staff, worrying about who needs to come out of the rotation, who needs to go on the disabled list and who will ride to the rescue from Triple-A.
The next day, the Rangers are throwing another one of their nine Major League-leading shutouts. They now have three more than any other team after a 4-0 victory over the Astros on Monday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Rangers also have three shutouts in their last five games; they just happened to give up 13 runs in losses over the other two.
"It's all about consistency," manager Ron Washington said. "We're capable of doing it, we just hit some bad spells. But hopefully we can keep working and get some consistency."
Getting Colby Lewis back to his where he once was as a starter would help. He hasn't pitched six complete innings since his return from a long layoff, but Monday night was the closest he's come to being the pitcher he was before all of his elbow and hip surgeries.
His fastball isn't overpowering -- 87-89 mph -- but when Lewis is able to locate it and mix in his slider, curve and changeup, this is what happens. Lewis threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing seven hits and two walks while striking out eight and is now 3-2 with a 4.99 ERA in his sixth start since rejoining the Rangers' rotation.
"That's what you want as a starting pitcher, to get all four pitches working," Lewis said. "I was able flip some breaking balls in there early, the slider was sharp and the changeup got me some quick outs."
Rangers pitchers, including relievers Nick Martinez, Neal Cotts and Joakim Soria, did not have one inning in which they retired the side in order. They combined to allow 11 hits and three walks, but they struck out 14 and held the Astros to 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, stranding 12 runners on base. Catcher Robinson Chirinos also threw out a couple of attempted basestealers to deflate early Astros threats.
"Those were huge," Washington said. "Colby did a good job. We needed him to put up those zeros because they were threatening almost all the time. The bullpen was very solid."
"The difference is the ability to hit with men in scoring positions and push a run across with balls in play," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "I think we struck out 14 times. The other team only had to defend the baseball 13 times. They pitched to that."
Lewis beat Brad Peacock, who struck out a career-high 11 in six innings but also gave up some big hits. Adrian Beltre hit his third home run of the season and rookie second baseman Rougned Odor drove in two runs, with a single and his first Major League homer.
Beltre entered the game hitless in his last 10 at-bats and 3-for-23 in his last six games. He grounded out in his first at-bat before putting the Rangers ahead with a two-run home run in the third inning.
"It's always nice to contribute and help the ballclub win games," Beltre said. "I need to do more of that. Hopefully this is the start of something better."
Odor made it 3-0 in the with a two-out RBI single in the fourth inning. He then came up with two outs and nobody on in the sixth and connected with a first-pitch fastball that ended up in the second deck beyond the right-field wall.
"I've been throwing batting practice to him, and he can hit the ball along way for a small guy," Washington said. "He's not afraid. He walks up to the plate or goes out into the field with confidence. He's not scared."
Lewis might have completed six innings if Odor hadn't lost a ground ball in his jersey. Yes, that's what happened in the sixth after Jason Castro grounded out to lead off the frame. Matt Dominguez followed with a sharp grounder at Odor, who got in front the ball and was ready to block a wicked hop. But the baseball didn't bounce off his chest, it went inside the neck hole of his jersey and Dominguez was credit with a single.
"I was just trying to get in front of the ball so it wouldn't get behind me," Odor said. "It just took a bad hop."
After Marc Krauss flied out to left, George Springer singled to left and the runners ended up at second and third when Mitch Moreland bobbled the ball for an error. That was it for Lewis as manager Washington pulled him with 108 pitches. Martinez took over and closed out the inning by getting Chris Carter on a weak grounder back to the mound.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.