ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- With the ALDS tied at one game each and a pivotal Game 3 looming Monday afternoon, Texas Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux had that confident look on his face when asked about Colby Lewis.
"I'm glad he's pitching tomorrow," Maddux said before Sunday's workout.
Maddux has marveled at how Lewis has toughed it out through a hip injury and an up-and-down season to end with 200 1/3 innings pitched, his second straight 200-inning campaign.
"He's mentally tough," Maddux said. "He a gamer. He's competing and battling and does the job. He won't pass any physicals. He's probably not healthy enough for the military, but he is for us."
Lewis won't talk about the hip much. He said it's something he manages and it's not an excuse for anything. His mission is what it always is: Find his fastball command and mix things up.
One thing Lewis won't do is let nerves get to him. He's pitched on the big playoff stages before and succeeded.
"I try not to let like this right here, the media and everthing else, build up to where it is more than just a start," said Lewis, who had to address a large media contigent Sunday before his Monday start. "I try to keep everything normal, keep the workouts the same, keep everything as familiar as possible. It doesn't matter if it's the second start in April or if it's the seventh game of the World Series. I try to look at it the same and try to keep the same approach."
It's been an inconsistent season for Lewis. He had a 6.95 ERA after four starts through April 25 and was 1-3. He got things figured out and went through a 7-start stretch in late April and through May, posting a 4-2 mark and a 2.04 ERA. But then his gave up 15 runs (all earned) in four innings in his next two starts, inflating his ERA again. It went down thanks to a 12-start span of solid work -- 6-1, 2.70 ERA -- and then went back up as he was 2-2 with a 7.94 ERA in five starts in late August and early September.
"We preach executing with conviction," Maddux said. "That's what his game plan is. But I think past performance helps. Guys that have been there, done that, make a lot of guys attractive acquisitions in that they've performed on the biggest stages and they've prevailed. It lets the manager sleep better and everybody else sleep better."
This will be Lewis' first postseason start on the road. All four of his starts in 2010 were at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. But this season, he's 9-5 with a 3.43 ERA on the road, much better than his 5.54 ERA and 5-5 mark at home. Lewis also has previous success this season against the Rays, pitching eight shutout innings on four hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in a win at Tropicana Field.