Catcher Yorvit Torrealba deserves some credit, too. He has been the starting catcher for each of the Matt Harrison's last two starts, and the complete-game gem turned in by Colby Lewis on Tuesday night.
"I was able to keep the ball down again and get ahead of guys throwing my off-speed for strikes. Like last time, me and Torrealba were on the same page," Harrison said after last night's 1-0 victory vs. Arizona in which he extended his scoreless-innings stretch to 16.1 innings. "I was just focused on hitting his mitt. He was calling the game. We worked well together."
On Tuesday, Lewis became the first Rangers right-handed pitcher to throw back-to-back complete games since Kevin Millwood in 2008. Lewis gave up just one run, one walk and four hits in his nine innings, and he was perfect through 16 batters.
He appreciates who is behind the plate.
"Exceptional!" Lewis said of Torrealba's job behind the plate this season. "For me, looking at who I want back there doesn't really matter, especially on this team. If they are able to go out there and keep me in the strike zone, know what I'm doing and if I am doing anything wrong to be able to correct that, and both guys are great defensively."
In Torrealba's last three games, Rangers pitchers have allowed just one run (earned) in 27 innings. That's a 0.33 catcher's ERA. Furthermore, Torrealba entered Wednesday's game with a 3.31 catcher's ERA, which leads the American League and is seventh overall.
With good reason, Lewis also acknowledged the job done by Mike Napoli, the other half of the Rangers' catching tandem. His 3.82 catcher's ERA is seventh in the AL this season. Furthermore, the Rangers were 42-15 with an AL-leading 3.16 ERA with Napoli behind the plate last season.
"I do like what he's [Torrealba] been doing with our pitching staff, no doubt about it. He's a solid catcher. He can swing the bat, too. He's not doing it right now, but he's been able to separate," manager Ron Washington said Wednesday. "He hasn't let what he can do behind the plate affect what he's not doing at the plate. That's the most important thing. I feel good when he's back there. I feel good when Mike's back there. I'm fortunate to have two guys that can receive pretty good."
Yes, I emphasized the catcher's ERA, but don't get too caught up in that stat. Former Rangers catcher Jim Sundberg, who prior to Napoli had owned the club's best catcher’s ERA for a season (3.24 in 1983), has discussed on many episodes of Rangers Magazine (weekends on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM) that a catcher can do his homework on opposing hitters, have a feel for the game, select a pitch and determine the location, but it's up to the pitcher to execute each pitch.
Lewis said that he shook off Torrealba's sign "maybe three times" Tuesday.
According to Elias Stats Bureau, entering last night's game, Torrealba ranked first among AL catchers (seventh overall) in fewest runs given up per nine innings (3.7) and first in the AL (second overall) in fewest hits per nine innings (7.4). These stats are based on a minimum of 200 innings caught. Torrealba also entered last night's game having allowed an average of 2.14 walks per game.
Clearly, Torrealba is having a better season behind the plate than his first season with the Rangers. Why is that?
"I think every year I have been getting better. Obviously, it's all about experience," Torrealba said. "Last year, no excuses. I don't make any excuses, but I didn't really know my pitching staff that well. I really didn't know the American League that much. I think I was trying too hard to impress everybody.
"This year, it's been more me. It's been more, 'Go out there and have fun.' Believe in what I am doing."
Torrealba came to Texas with an extensive resume, having played for San Francisco (2001-05), Seattle (2005), Colorado (2006-09) and San Diego (2010) before signing with the Rangers. The experience plays into one main plan.
"I'm happy with just the fact if we go out there and win. Period. I try to get the starting pitcher deep into the game, at least six or seven innings. That's my goal every start. So far, so good."