10/31/10 12:05 AM ET
Lewis' career revival takes step forward
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
"Big Game" Colby might not have the right ring to it, but it fits the big no-nonsense right-hander from Bakersfield, Calif., like a comfortable pair of western jeans right about now.
The man who spent two years in Japan reviving his career continues to deliver when it matters most in this season of seasons for the Rangers.
Lewis' 7 2/3 superb innings on Saturday night kept the Giants grounded, allowing blasts by Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton to produce a 4-2 Game 3 decision in a World Series that suddenly has become a competitive event rather than a San Francisco coronation.
"It's an awesome, awesome feeling to think that many people come out to see me and see the Rangers play," Lewis said, referring to the 52,419 on hand for the first World Series game in this part of Texas. "I get goosebumps thinking about it right now."
It was in Lewis' hands to put away the Yankees in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series at Rangers Ballpark, and he held them to three hits and one run across eight innings in the pennant clincher. Six days earlier in Arlington, he'd yielded two runs across 5 2/3 innings in a Game 2 victory that got Texas back in business after it had let a five-run Game 1 lead slip away.
In his postseason debut on Oct. 9 at home, he held the Rays scoreless across five innings in Game 3 of the AL Division Series before Tampa Bay rallied to prevail.
Like the Giants' Matt Cain, Lewis might as well carry a lunch pail and a tool kit to the mound.
"He's a technician," Rangers reliever Darren O'Day said. "He's a guy who never gets flustered. If you watch him, he's never walking around the mound. He gets the ball, takes his sign and throws it.
"That's a lot of pressure on Colby, and it just doesn't get to him. He's a rock."
Lewis had the Giants shut out until Cody Ross unloaded a solo shot with one away in the seventh. Four hitters later, with one down in the eighth, Andres Torres went deep.
Manager Ron Washington didn't replace Lewis until he hit Aubrey Huff in the leg with an 0-2 pitch, leaving it to O'Day to retire Buster Posey in a tense seven-pitch confrontation to ease the minds and bring down the fans' pulses.
"He knows what he has to do," Washington said of Lewis. "He executes. And more than anything else, his command is what it's all about. If he can command his pitches and he can put them where he wants to, you'll get out of him what we did tonight. We needed a well-pitched job."
There will be two more home dates now, thanks in large part to this unassuming 31-year-old gentleman who began his professional career in 1999 in Texas and departed without much fanfare for Hiroshima in 2008.
Two seasons in Japan restored his confidence, and he caught the attention of the Rangers. As Washington likes to say, "When Nolan Ryan talks, people listen."
Lewis listened and rejoined Ryan's Rangers. Lewis had gone 12-13 from 2002-04 in Texas before rotator cuff issues surfaced. Here he is, after stays in Detroit and Oakland and then the Japanese journey, the toast of the Lone Star State all these years later.
Lewis was acknowledged as the one starter the Rangers' potent offense did not support. He was 12-13 with a 3.72 ERA and 196 strikeouts in 201 innings.
"The first time he was here," Michael Young recalled, "he was a power guy. He had great stuff. When he came back from Japan, he had great command, an out pitch. What's the same is he's still a horse. He competes every time, every pitch. Those are the kinds of guys you want to play defense behind.
"Better command [is the difference]. I think he has an idea of what he wants to do when each guy gets in the box. That's just called pitching. For some guys, it takes a while. But Colby's got it now. Every pitch he makes, he has a goal."
Lewis found his inner calm in a distant land, where he managed to breathe deeply and refocus.
"I went to Japan, my family was taken care of and I relaxed," Lewis said, explaining as briefly as possible the awakening that took place in the Far East. "My biggest thing before I went to Japan was I was trying to get established. I thought I had an opportunity when I was younger -- the Rangers gave me that -- and I got injured.
"It's a great opportunity now to be on this stage, absolutely. It's an awesome feeling, it really is."
Of Lewis' 103 pitches, 74 were strikes. That's a Cliff Lee ratio.
"If you go out and pound the strike zone early, it opens up a lot of doors," Lewis said. "I think it's a situation where you can get ahead early and throw the pitches you want to late. You see it with all the great pitchers, with [Roy] Halladay and all those guys getting ahead early. You saw it with C.J. [Wilson] in San Francisco."
A telling moment for Lewis came early, after he'd left two runners stranded in the first by striking out Pat Burrell. Ross worked a leadoff walk in the second and Juan Uribe jumped ahead 2-0 in the count. Lewis threw a slider that Uribe lifted for an out, and when Pablo Sandoval tapped into a double play, Lewis was locked in.
"He pitched well, hit his spots, mixed it up," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's a pitcher, and he's had a good year. He's pitched very well in this postseason, and he took it out there tonight and did a good job for them."
Lewis needed 10 pitches to dismiss the Giants in the third, a shutdown inning coming after Moreland's thunderous three-run homer against Jonathan Sanchez.
"His slider is so effective," O'Day said of Lewis. "If you haven't seen it before, it's there, and it's gone."
"It's got that late movement," said catcher Bengie Molina. "That's what makes it so effective."
Both solo homers came on fastballs. Lewis was throwing strikes, and Ross and Torres lost two of them.
"With the previous series," Lewis said, "the Yankees loaded up with lefties, and I knew my curveball was going to be a big player -- and my changeup. Tonight, I threw a lot of sliders. My breaking ball worked well. Basically that was it."
Different strokes for different strokes.
For a technician from Bakersfield, it's all in a day's work.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.