ARLINGTON, Texas -- Colby Lewis' twisted and too often tormented path in and out of the big leagues and back again is practically unfathomable. On Friday night, with red, white and blue confetti raining down on the American League champion Texas Rangers, Lewis stood on the mound he had just conquered, hugging his biggest fan, his older brother, who most certainly understood.
Jack Lewis watched in awe Friday night as Colby pitched the game of his life on the grandest stage of a meandering career that had plunked him in Hiroshima the past two years. The near-look-a-like siblings squeezed one another as though they planned to never let go.
"For 25 years I've been watching this boy go through his ups and downs," Jack said. "He came out tonight, took the ball, took it in his hands and he was going to finish the job and he did. He told me this morning he's going to handle business, and he did."
Colby Lewis shut down the Bronx Bombers on three hits over eight innings, including four hitless innings to open the game. Lewis delivered the Rangers a 6-1 victory that vaulted the franchise into its first World Series after 38 years of futility in North Texas.
The lone run the defending champions could muster came on a bad call, a wild pitch in the fifth that actually wasn't. Replays showed the curve ball in the dirt skipped up and actually hit Nick Swisher in the shin and ricocheted to the backstop. The proper call would have sent Swisher to first and Alex Rodriguez back to third.
“I thought that curve ball hit Swisher, too,” Lewis said. “But, whatever.”
It didn’t matter. Lewis didn’t rattle. Even after the wild pitch that scored Rodriguez and then the next batter, Jorge Posada’s hard-luck double that hit first base and shot up over the glove of diving first baseman Mitch Moreland.
“I just told myself I have to stay after them and get another quick out,” Lewis said.
He came right back and struck out Marcus Thames on another nasty slider to end the fifth.
"I saw it from the bullpen [before the game]. His eyes," catcher Bengie Molina said. "His eyes were total focused on the game. He did awesome."
Lewis pitched calmly and in control throughout, lasting longer than he had in his previous two postseason starts, including his Game 2 ALCS win in which he went 5 2/3. He said he came to Rangers Ballpark relaxed even though he woke up feeling nervous. So Lewis took his 3-year-old son Cade to his favorite place.
“I took my son over to Bass Pro Shop,” Lewis said. “We just kind of hung out and walked around. He loves going to that place. I don’t know, it was just a real relaxed atmosphere. I took him home, he took a nap and I came to the park. It just felt really relaxed and comfortable.”
It showed. Lewis got stronger as the game progressed. Four of his seven strikeouts came in his final two innings. He fanned the side in the eighth, ending his day by fooling perennial All-Star Derek Jeter into a check-swing strikeout.
"He should feel like the king of the world in my mind," Jack Lewis said. "I mean he's been through adversity. Who would have thought? He went to Japan, got his career back together; we never thought he'd come home. He had to take his family over there, didn't know how to speak the language or anything. And here we are going to the World Series as the winning pitcher against the big, bad Yankees. Colby took care of business."
He had help along the way. Elvis Andrus robbed Rodriguez of a base hit to start the second. Ian Kinsler snared a Robinson Cano rocket on one hop and turned an inning-ending double play after one of Lewis’ three walks. And, Lewis got the run support he so sorely lacked during much of the season.
Andrus scored in the first, and in the fifth, after the Yankees tied it at 1-1 in the top half, Vladimir Guerrero finally came through with a monster, two-out double to center after Josh Hamilton was intentionally walked for the second time in three at-bats. That sent Lewis’ counterpart, Phil Hughes to the shower. Then Nelson Cruz greeted reliever Dave Robertson with a rope over the center-field wall for a commanding 5-1 lead.
“Just his character to be able to come back here and put himself in that position is incredible,” Kinsler said. “Colby has worked his tail off to get where he’s at. And tonight, he threw an unbelievable game for us.”
Over the next three innings, Lewis faced just 11 batters, allowing a two-out triple to Lance Berkman in the seventh and a two-out walk in the eighth.
“I felt like I commanded the slider and I said, ‘I’m just going to start ripping on it and see what happens,'" Lewis said. "And the curve ball was still there and it was a lot of fun.”
Especially in the eighth inning when the crowd of 51,404 started chanting his name. The Rangers’ first-round pick in 1999 said he had to step off the mound to soak in the moment and refocus on the task at hand. Then he struck out Jeter and headed to the dugout.
That’s when it hit him: Three more outs and the Rangers are headed to the World Series, and, yes, he was back. Back from all those years bouncing around the big leagues, the multiple minor-league stints and the shoulder injuries.
And, of course, those two wonderful years in Japan that convinced the Rangers to bring him back.
"After the eighth, I was walking off and I kind of just thought of the situation I was in, to have this opportunity,” Lewis said. “It was just a great feeling.”