Rangers-Indians Preview

The Associated Press

Since breaking a franchise mark involving series victories, the Texas Rangers have had trouble earning wins consistently.

A series with the Cleveland Indians, the potential return of two top hitters to the lineup and another strong outing from Colby Lewis on Friday night might help them get back on track.

Texas set a team record by winning its first six series this season but has lost its last two. The Rangers (17-8) have lost four of six games, including their final two in Toronto earlier this week.

They allowed a combined 19 runs in those defeats, including a season-worst 11 during Wednesday's series finale.

"You're not going to win every series," pitcher Matt Harrison told the team's website. "We know what we have to improve on. ... We'll get our heads right and go out and take it out on Cleveland."

Texas has usually done that against the Indians as it's won 11 of 12 at Cleveland and 21 of 25 overall. The Rangers also enter this game tied with Cleveland for the best road record in the majors at 9-3.

Having Lewis (3-0, 1.93 ERA) on the mound for the series opener could help Texas add to that mark and its dominance of the Indians.

The right-hander has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his five outings this season, and gave up one over six innings during a 7-2 win against Tampa Bay on Saturday.

"If we're consistent on the mound, we're going to win ballgames with our lineup," Lewis said. "I just try to go out and throw zeros and keep our team in the game."

Adrian Beltre hit a three-run homer during that victory but sat out Wednesday's 11-5 loss due to soreness he blamed on the Rogers Centre turf. Josh Hamilton, the AL's player of the month for April, missed his third straight game because of a sore back, but both players might return Friday.

"I hope to have them back in that lineup," manager Ron Washington said. "They're quite important."

If they do return, Hamilton and Beltre will try to help their team avoid a third consecutive loss by handing Jeanmar Gomez (1-1, 2.35) his second in as many outings.

The Indians right-hander, though, has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his three starts this season and gave up two over six innings during a hard-luck 2-1 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday.

That outing marked his return from a five-game suspension for intentionally hitting Kansas City's Mike Moustakas during an 11-9 win April 14.

While the right-hander will make his first start against Texas, Lewis will try to improve to 3-0 in his career against the Indians (13-10). He's allowed three runs or fewer in each of his last three starts and pitched into the eighth inning during a 5-3 home win Aug. 7.

This time, he'll try to contain a lineup that produced 13 runs in back-to-back road wins over the Chicago White Sox after totaling 14 in its previous six games.

"(Winning on the road) is very important, especially early in the year because it sets a tone," manager Manny Acta said.

Jason Kipnis homered, tripled and drove in a career-high four runs during a 7-5 victory Thursday, improving his average to .444 over the past seven games.

Johnny Damon also recorded his first hit with Cleveland. Damon, purchased from the minors Tuesday, served as a designated hitter Thursday while Travis Hafner rested his sore right knee.

He might get another day off as Damon is 4 for 13 lifetime against Lewis while Hafner is 1 for 6.

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