Lewis gets monkey off back in Rangers' win
Moreland tallies career-high three RBIs to help starter snap slide
TORONTO -- It took longer than expected, but Colby Lewis finally got the monkey off his back. And by the same token, Lewis relabeled the Rangers' 10-game road trip from poor to passable.
The Rangers defeated the Blue Jays by a slim 4-2 margin Thursday night at Rogers Centre, ending their saga away from home with a series won, a series lost and a series tied -- still maintaining the same 7 1/2-game lead atop the American League West they left with.
As for Lewis, who was aided by a career-best three-RBI performance from rookie Mitch Moreland, he left Toronto with his 10th win -- but it was his first victory since July 16 against Boston, a span of nine starts.
"It's definitely gratifying to get double digits, for sure," Lewis said. "I just really wanted to bounce back after the two poor outings I had. That was the biggest thing I wanted to do today."
After surrendering 14 runs over his past two games, including a nine-run shelling in his prior outing vs. the Twins, Lewis bounced back with a vengeance.
The big right-hander gave up one run over 6 1/3 innings of work, striking out eight and scattering five hits. Apart from a solo home run to Lyle Overbay in the seventh, Lewis faced minimal adversity.
The biggest jam he escaped, which proved to be pivotal in the end, came in the first inning. Following consecutive two-out walks to Jose Bautista and Vernon Wells, Lewis struck out Overbay on four pitches to end any chance of an early threat.
Two-out runs had haunted Lewis as of late.
"Not one change," Lewis said about making any adjustments between starts. "I went about my business like every four days in between. I knew the mistakes I made. I mean, eight runs scored with two outs [against the Twins]. I just didn't make some get-out pitches and they took advantage of it, period."
The Rangers' offense, which had been unable to provide Lewis with much run support over his past few starts, looked like it was going to have another tough-luck night. Jays starter Shawn Hill -- making his first start of the season after a second Tommy John surgery in June 2009 -- stranded the bases loaded with no outs in the third. Ian Kinsler struck out and Michael Young hit into a double play to fizzle a fruitful scoring opportunity.
The middle of the order picked up the slack in the following frame, putting men on first and second. With two aboard, Nelson Cruz laced a single into left field that was booted by Travis Snider, resulting in the game's first tally.
Moreland then hit a high fly ball to center field. Vladimir Guerrero tagged from third, but a perfect stripe from DeWayne Wise appeared to have him beat. Blue Jays catcher John Buck dropped the ball as Guerrero slid across the plate, capping off a two-run frame.
The Rangers added to their slim lead in the sixth. Reliever Jesse Carlson entered the game with runners on second and third. Moreland once again came up clutch, smacking a double barely inside the right-field line to cash both runners.
"I thought it was inside the bag pretty well," Moreland said. "I knew it was going to be fair. All I tried to do was get the barrel on it. It was nice to get the job done."
The Jays, however, did not lay down quietly. In typical fashion, they pelted two late solo blasts -- from Overbay in the seventh and Bautista in the eighth -- to make things interesting.
Protecting the two-run lead, Rangers closer Neftali Feliz converted his 35th save of the season, retiring the Jays in order.
Through 10 games against the Rangers this season, the Blue Jays have amassed 24 home runs. Even more shocking, reliever Darren O'Day, who had surrendered just one long ball entering the series, gave up three home runs in as many days.
Despite the hiccup, skipper Ron Washington believes O'Day remains one of his go-to guys in the 'pen.
"He's been very, very, very good for us," Washington said. "He left some pitches out over the plate, and if you do that to them, they don't miss it. It could have been Roger Clemens and it would have probably happened. I'll keep giving the ball to O'Day in that situation, and he'll keep the ball in the ballpark. You just have to tip your hat to the guys that hit it out -- they're capable."
At the end of the night, and at the end of a long road trip, it was finally Lewis' time to savor the moment.
"One thing for sure, it gets the monkey off his back," Washington said. "He's been trying to get No. 10 for a while."
James Hall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.