Commentary

Rangers' starting rotation faltering

Colby Lewis is the third straight starter without a quality outing, and that spells trouble

Updated: October 12, 2011, 3:07 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

DETROIT -- We're three games into the American League Championship Series and the Texas Rangers still don't have a quality start from their rotation.

Don't lie to yourself, the Rangers won't win this series if that trend continues.

Baseball has always been about starting pitching, and it'll continue to be about starting pitching until the end of time.

If someone, anyone, in the Rangers' starting rotation doesn't provide a legitimate quality start similar to the one the Detroit Tigers' Doug Fister turned in Tuesday night -- 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball -- then Texas' quality defense, versatile offense and superior bullpen won't matter.

[+] EnlargeColby Lewis
Andrew Weber/US PresswireColby Lewis got off to a fast start but lasted only 5 2/3 innings and alllowed two home runs.

Colby Lewis had an opportunity to put a chokehold on this series but failed to get it done.

While he was dominant early with five strikeouts in the first three innings, he faltered his third time through the lineup and the Tigers surged past the Rangers, 5-2, at Comerica Park.

Now, Texas leads the ALCS 2-1.

"My job is to keep us in the ballgame, and I felt like I did that," Lewis said. "But it just kind of got away in the sixth. I felt like a lot of my pitches were working, but I didn't get the results."

Victor Martinez homered to tie the score at 1-1 in the fourth inning. In the fifth, Lewis gave up a run-scoring single to Miguel Cabrera on an 0-2 pitch as the Tigers took a 2-1 lead.

Ridiculous.

You don't let Cabrera, one of the favorites to win the AL MVP, beat you on a two-strike pitch. Sure, Lewis threw a fastball up and away, but he didn't get it far enough off the plate. If it was a foot, then it should've been a foot and a half. If it was two feet, then it should've been two and a half feet.

If Cabrera works a walk, then fine. But giving up the lead on that hit was inexcusable.

"I haven't looked at it yet," Lewis said, "but that pitch was a foot and a half off the plate."

The lead swelled to 3-1 on a leadoff homer by Jhonny Peralta in the sixth. Three batters later, Lewis left the game and gasoline man Koji Uehara entered with two out and a runner on first.

When the inning ended, the Tigers led 5-1.

At this point, don't be shocked if you don't see Uehara anymore this season, whether the Rangers advance to the World Series or not.

Lewis lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits and four runs with two walks and six strikeouts. He also allowed two homers, something that shouldn't surprise any of us since he allowed a league-high 35 homers during the regular season.

"He throws strikes and every now and then he's going to give up some long balls," manager Ron Washington said. "Cabrera caught an up-and-away fastball that was supposed to be out of the zone. He just didn't get it there."

It was an average performance, but it's hard to be too critical of Lewis because he's been easily the Rangers' best postseason starter the past two seasons. He went 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA, helping the Rangers advance to the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

That said, the Rangers needed him to go deep into Game 3 on Tuesday night because raggedy performances from C.J. Wilson and Derek Holland had taxed the Rangers' best relievers.

Based on what you've seen in this series, it's hard to believe the Rangers tied for the AL lead with 99 quality starts. In the postseason, the starting rotation has allowed 37 hits in 33 innings and has an ERA of 5.18.

Lewis is the only starter to pitch into the sixth inning.

That's not nearly good enough for a club with championship aspirations.

Washington can't keep using Mike Adams, Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz every day, whether the Rangers are winning or losing, or he'll use them up. Quickly. Then the Rangers really won't have a chance.

Matt Harrison gets his chance Wednesday to make an impact start. FYI: The Tigers have kicked his butt this season.

He's allowed 17 hits and seven runs in just 10 innings against Detroit. The Tigers hit .405 against him this season.

The odds of Harrison ending this streak of subpar starting pitching don't look good, based on the numbers.

Perhaps, he'll surprise us and give the Rangers command of this series.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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