ARLINGTON, Texas -- Colby Lewis hasn't said anything all season, but the Rangers' starting pitcher has been dealing with hip pain for most of 2011. Sources said he even received injections earlier in the season to help manage the pain. But Lewis doesn't even want to talk about it. And he hasn't used it as any excuse for poor performances.
"It is what it is," Lewis said. "If you're sick, you have to find a way to play. This is like that. You do what you have to do. You find a way to work through it."
Lewis found a way Friday, bouncing back from surrendering a two-run homer in the first to pitch 7 1/3 innings in a 13-4 Rangers win. The victory was the 12th of the season for Lewis, matching his career high in the big leagues.
"It's all location," Lewis said. "I got into pitcher's counts instead of hitter's counts."
It helped that after issuing a two-out walk and then a home run to Josh Willingham (Lewis' AL-leading 33rd home run of the season), that his offense immediately scored two runs off Brandon McCarthy to tie the score. Lewis came back out on the mound and found his rhythm, keeping his fastball low in the zone and hitting both sides of the plate.
"Then we were able to mix pitches, keep them off-balance and not allow them to barrel anything," said catcher Mike Napoli, who added a long home run (aren't all his home runs long?) in the eighth.
Lewis said he felt better after the first inning and his tempo showed that. He worked a little more quickly following the opening inning and got into a groove. He retired the first two batters in every inning but the eighth and had seven strikeouts. Oakland didn't get a runner into scoring position off Lewis while he was out there after the first-inning homer.
The quality start ended a trio of troubling outings for him. Lewis gave up 16 runs in 15 1/3 innings in his previous three starts and lost two of them (both to Boston). In those, he struggled early and couldn't turn the trend around. On Friday, his location was better and he was sharper. He gave up just five hits and three runs and now gets a chance to rest a little longer.
Lewis is not scheduled to pitch again until next Saturday in Seattle, giving him seven days between starts. It's an opportunity to rest his hip and take a breather before making key starts in the final few weeks. Lewis was at his best for the Rangers when it mattered most in 2010, winning Games 2 and 6 of the ALCS in Arlington against the Yankees and the club's only World Series victory as well. He showed flashes of that in Friday's performance, bearing down after the slow start to get a win.
"He got over his front side and got the ball down," manager Ron Washington said. "He hasn't been able to do that consistently, but he did tonight. We never doubted Colby."
Give the veteran pitcher some credit: News of this hip just now filtered out in large part because Lewis never said one word about it. He doesn't want it used as an excuse for some of his struggles and is figuring out how to deal with it and pitch. It shows his toughness. Friday proves he can pitch through it and succeed. Now his mission is to find a way to do that more consistently.