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Astros-Rangers Preview

AP - Sports

Colby Lewis was struggling the last time he was preparing to face the Houston Astros.

That definitely isn't the case this time for the Texas Rangers right-hander.

Lewis will try to win his fourth consecutive regular-season start against an NL team - and third in a row over Houston - Sunday in Arlington, where the AL West-leading Rangers and Astros meet for the final time as interleague opponents.

After posting a 6.52 ERA while losing each of his previous three starts, Lewis (5-5, 3.13 ERA) allowed one run and four hits in eight-plus innings of a 6-1 victory at Houston on May 20. He also had two hits and two RBIs to help Texas (39-27) take two of three in that series.

Lewis will try to lead the Rangers to a three-game sweep after Saturday's 8-3 victory clinched the Silver Boot for Texas for the sixth consecutive season.

Sunday marks the final interleague matchup in the Lone Star series as Houston shifts from the NL Central to the AL West in 2013.

Winning for just the second time in eight games in Arlington could be a challenge for the Astros (27-38) as Lewis is coming off a four-hitter in Tuesday' 9-1 win over Arizona. He retired the first 16 batters and finished with seven strikeouts and one walk.

Lewis leads the majors with a 6.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

"I just put value in putting up innings, keeping the team in the game and going as deep in the game as possible," Lewis told the Rangers' official website after completing his second straight game. "That what I want to do. Complete games come and go."

The Rangers, winners of five of six, will complete their six-game homestand without Josh Hamilton, who has missed the last two games with an intestinal virus. The 2010 AL MVP was released from the hospital Saturday morning.

"(Sunday), he's coming to work. He's coming to punch the clock, but he won't be in the lineup," manager Ron Washington told the Rangers' official website. "... Hopefully he'll be ready to go when we get to San Diego (on Monday)."

While Texas will be without its leading home run hitter and run producer, the Astros could get a lift with the return of first baseman Carlos Lee, who has been out of the lineup since June 1 with a strained left hamstring.

"He's not hitting for as much power (four homers), but he's at least a threat because of what he's capable of doing and he can still reach the seats," Astros manager Brad Mills told the team's official website.

Lee has struck out just 10 times in 192 at-bats, but his teammates have fanned an average of 11.2 times while dropping eight of 13 since he last played.

That doesn't bode well for Houston's Dallas Keuchel, who is expected to make his major league debut Sunday.

The left-hander, a seventh-round pick in 2009, will take the place of Bud Norris, who is likely headed to the disabled list with a sprained right knee.

Keuchel went 5-4 with a 4.26 ERA in 13 starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie, who hit his team-leading 13th homer Saturday, is a career .333 (29 for 87) hitter against Rangers pitching. His ninth-inning homer May 20 was the only run Lewis allowed.

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