Experience helps Lewis entering Game 2 start
Texas righty to draw on ALDS outing to feel more comfortable
ARLINGTON -- The location will be the same, but the stage will be even bigger for Colby Lewis.
Yet the Rangers right-hander figures to be more comfortable starting against the Yankees in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday afternoon than he was exactly one week earlier when he faced the Rays in Game 3 of the AL Division Series.
The difference? Experience.
Make no mistake, Lewis will have the normal nerves any starting pitcher has before a game, but this is no longer the first time around for him.
"Absolutely," Lewis said when asked if the experience against the Rays would help. "Like anything, I think the more you do it, the more comfortable you get. I mean there was definitely nerves last time, but that's to be expected any time you go into the postseason. But if you're not nervous, then for me anyway, I feel like there's something wrong."
Lewis took the mound against the Rays with his team on the verge of a series sweep. A record 51,746 fans were packed into Rangers Ballpark waving rally towels and showing the excitement that comes with hosting their first postseason game in more than 10 years.
"I was kind of like really in awe the first time with some of the fans and the rally towels and all that warming up," Lewis said. "It was all stuff that you have seen on TV and that you watch in the postseason but never get to experience. But, you know, now I experienced it for the first time and now I know what to expect my second start."
Lewis didn't post poor numbers against the Rays, leaving with a runner on first and no one out in the sixth with the Rangers leading, 1-0.
Still, there was plenty of room for improvement, starting with the five walks he allowed.
"The first three innings, he was sharp," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He was hitting his spots."
Indeed, Lewis walked just one in the first three innings before walking one in the fourth, two in the fifth and the leadoff hitter in the sixth before Washington pulled him.
"I think what hurt him more than anything, he started walking guys," Washington said. "You know, something he really doesn't do. It's just a matter of him putting his pitches where he wants to put them because he has swing-and-miss stuff, and I think what got him in trouble the first time is he just lost his command. He maintains his command, I'm certainly going to love where he can take us in the game."
Lewis' journey back to Texas after spending the last two seasons pitching in Japan has been well documented, but what is less known is how the Yankees' unfamiliarity with him will play out Saturday.
Lewis did not face the Yankees this season and his last outing against them was Aug. 5, 2003. Only three hitters wearing pinstripes have stepped in the box against him in their careers. Lance Berkman is 0-for-7 with four strikeouts and Jorge Posada is 0-for-6. The only batter with a hit against him is Derek Jeter, who is 3-for-5 with a pair of homers and three RBIs.
So it begs the question: Does the unfamiliarity help Lewis, or is it an advantage for the Yankees?
"He's different than he was when our guys saw him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "So our guys don't necessarily have a very good idea of what he's going to try to do to them with a runner in scoring position, what he might do behind in the count, ahead in the count. So it's different. They are not sure, you know, his 90-mph fastball, his 92-mph fastball, if it's going to be sneaky or not.
"Sometimes that first time through [the order] can be an advantage for the pitcher. But today with video, you watch him as much as you can and compare him to maybe somebody you've seen and try to attack him that way."
Lewis is not sure whether it will be a help to him, but he likely will spend a little more time studying video of hitters that he has not seen before.
"It's all relative to each guy, I think," Lewis said. "You know, some guys say it's better for the pitcher if they have not seen you in a long time, and sometimes the pitcher says it's better for us if we have seen them a lot of times. So, I don't know. I mean, it's just one of those things. I guess we just have to see, wait to see how it plays out."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.