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Friday, April 6, 2012
Colby Lewis impresses in home opener

By Calvin Watkins

ARLINGTON, Texas -- For Colby Lewis, it was just like any other start.

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In reality, it wasn't.

Opening Day is a big deal. Lewis is used to pitching in big late-season games and the postseason, but now he got a taste of opening the year.

Lewis pitched six strong innings, tying a Rangers record with nine strikeouts on Opening Day, in the 3-2 victory over the White Sox on Friday afternoon. He shares the mark with Hall of Famer and Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan, who did it April 8, 1991, against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Lewis left with the score tied at 2 in the sixth, but Michael Young drove in Josh Hamilton with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the frame.

"It was exactly what I thought it was gonna be," Lewis said after his 100-pitch outing. "The goose bumps and jitters and all that kind of stuff. [It's] just like any other time in the postseason. Once you throw that first strike, it's over. So it's back to work and it's like anything else; you have to get outs."

Lewis pitched out of trouble for most of the day, but he took charge with his slider and fastball to do so. Pitching coach Mike Maddux said Lewis also had a good breaking ball.

"I think I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes, really," Lewis said. "The changeup was really good today. I was able to throw breaking balls for a strike and also kind of throw the slider off the same [pace] as the fastball, so it was a good day."

Rangers manager Ron Washington wanted Lewis to finish a difficult sixth inning. The right-hander gave up a massive home run to Adam Dunn to start the inning and cut the Rangers' lead to 2-1. After retiring the next two hitters, Lewis hit Alex Rios with a pitch and Alexei Ramirez singled to left-center to drive in the tying run.

"I knew Ramirez was going to be swinging with an 0-2 count," Lewis said. "I didn't bury the slider. I think if I bury the slider, I probably get the strikeout there. I left it up just a touch. In my mind, I knew he would be thinking slider and it didn't really matter. I wanted to bury it but I left it up there and gave up the base hit. That's what professional hitters do, they take advantage of mistakes, and he tied the ballgame up there."

The Rangers' bats gave Lewis a chance to get the win. The bullpen -- consisting Friday of Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan -- kept the White Sox scoreless after the sixth.

"Colby was outstanding," Washington said. "He did exactly what we needed him to do, keep us in the ballgame, made pitches when he had to, and that's the way you like it."