Commentary

Colby Lewis stays calm and composed

Rangers' most consistent postseason starter on the mound as they go for first title

Updated: October 26, 2011, 10:44 AM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

ST. LOUIS -- Derek Holland does impersonations, even on national television, and sports one of the worst mustaches in the history of sports. C.J. Wilson owns a race team, takes photographs and has about 100 varied interests outside of pitching. Colby Lewis? He likes to hunt, wearing camouflage in the woods and blending in, much like he does in the Texas Rangers' clubhouse.

Lewis doesn't exactly stick out. He walks like a man twice his age, ambling around on a balky hip. Perhaps that's why he never appears in a rush to do anything. Ask a question and you're more likely to get a shrug of the shoulders and a smile rather than any kind of lengthy answer.

So with the Rangers up 3-2 in the World Series, sitting one win away from the ultimate prize that has eluded them for nearly 40 years, the calm and composed Lewis takes the ball in the hostile territory of Busch Stadium. The Rangers wouldn't have it any other way.

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AP Photo/Jeff RobersonColby Lewis, the Rangers' Game 6 starter, is 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in three playoff starts this season.
"He totally believes in what he's trying to do out there on the mound," manager Ron Washington said. "He never gets away from what he does best. That's the key thing that keeps him relaxed. He does exactly what he's capable of doing and then, whatever the results are, he'll deal with them. If you can get every ballplayer to have that mindset, you'll have some super players all over the field."

Lewis has battled his entire career. He was taken 39th overall (compensation pick) in the 1999 draft and worked his way through the minors. But rotator cuff surgery early in 2004 slowed his progress and he ended up in Detroit on a waiver claim. Lewis struggled to find a consistent job in the majors after that and decided to go to Japan in 2008. There, he found his fastball location, fine-tuned his offspeed stuff and became a dominant strikeout pitcher, going 26-17 with a 2.82 ERA with 369 strikeouts and just 46 walks in 354 1/3 innings.

The Rangers' Pacific Rim operations scouted Lewis constantly and recommended the club sign him prior to the 2010 season. The acquisition has certainly paid dividends.

Lewis doesn't throw 95 mph like Holland. He doesn't have the complement of pitches that Wilson possesses. But he knows how to hit his spots, when to mix his pitches and how to move on when something bad happens. He's got some guile too. He can outsmart hitters and isn't afraid to challenge them.

"It's all about trusting your stuff, trusting the type of pitcher you are," Lewis said. "It's just trying to harness those emotions -- the adrenaline, the extra noise, the crowd and everything -- and just kind of stick to what you've been doing all year and stay with the same approach."

Call him bland, if you like. But don't forget to call him a postseason winner, too.

For the last two playoff runs, no one has pitched more consistently than Colby Lewis. Cliff Lee grabbed all the attention and was a horse in leading the Rangers over Tampa Bay in the American League Division Series in 2010. But it was Lewis who beat the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series less than 24 hours after the bullpen let a big lead get away. It was Lewis who didn't allow the Yankees much of anything in Game 6 of that same series as the Rangers clinched the franchise's first-ever trip to the World Series. Texas won just one game of that Fall Classic, and it was the one that Lewis started in Game 3.

The experience of pitching and winning a clinching game can't hurt Lewis' confidence.

"I think just being in the situation that we were last year throughout the playoffs gives you more of an edge, more relaxation, that's for sure," Lewis said. "You know how to react to certain things."

Lewis' solid work has continued this postseason. He is 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in three playoff starts. That includes a solid performance in Game 2 in Busch Stadium. Lewis gave up one run on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. The lone run scored when Alexi Ogando, relieving Lewis, gave up an RBI single to Allen Craig in the seventh to break a scoreless tie. Lewis kept putting up zeroes as Jaime Garcia, his opposing pitcher in Game 6 as well, matched him. The Rangers won the game with two runs in the top of the ninth.

"I think when he gets in the postseason that he gets really focused," Hall of Famer and Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan said. "He's one of these guys that has a tendency to take his game to another level. I think he's extremely prepared and knows what he wants to do and he sticks to his game plan."

One thing Ryan has noticed is that Lewis doesn't get rattled. It's a trait that has served him well, especially since he led the American League in home runs allowed. Lewis got tired of answering questions about that fact, but in many starts he was able to discard those bad pitches and get key outs, keeping his team in games.

And of the 35 homers he gave up, 23 were solo shots. In other words, it seems that Lewis got aggressive with hitters with no one on base and at times gave up the long ball because of it. But most of the time, pitchers can recover from solo homers.

"I know Colby well enough now, when he makes a pitch and he doesn't get it, I can see it," Ryan said. "I can read it through his body language, but he does not let that carry over to his next pitch.

"So I just think that where he is in his professional career and the discipline that he has serves him quite well."

It should serve him well in Game 6, when he looks to pitch the Rangers to a championship.

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.

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