Commentary

Colby Lewis leads by example

Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz can learn from Lewis' bounce-back performance

Updated: May 20, 2012, 7:08 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

HOUSTON -- Over two days here the Texas Rangers' young starters, Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz, failed to finish games when given leads versus the Houston Astros.

Holland lost a four-run lead Saturday night and Feliz, given a 3-1 cushion Friday, was taken out one out away from becoming the pitcher of record. It was so bad for Feliz, manager Ron Washington had a chat with him in the dugout during Friday night's game.

Both pitchers struggled with their control and didn't know how to solve it on the mound.

[+] EnlargeColby Lewis
Thomas B. Shea/Getty ImagesColby Lewis ended his three-game losing streak with an all-around performance against the Astros.

Sunday afternoon, Colby Lewis showed the youngsters how to pitch with a lead. He ended a personal three-game losing streak, throwing a season-high 123 pitches over eight innings to help the Rangers earn a 6-1 victory.

After the Rangers jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first, Lewis came in and threw two fastballs for strikes to leadoff hitter Jose Altuve. Though Altuve doubled down the left-field line, Lewis didn't let that deter him from moving forward.

He retired 12 of the next 14 batters heading into the middle innings.

Holding on to leads as a pitcher can be hazardous. Sometimes you overthrow, try to be too fine with pitches and just lose focus when ahead in the game.

Lewis, who said he didn't have a good slider, mixed his pitches up well and was consistent throwing his fastball down in the strike zone.

"I felt like I was able to get out front," Lewis said. "Even the slider wasn't very good, and that's usually my go-to pitch but that's one of those things if one isn't going [well] hopefully the others are."

Getting ahead of hitters was something Holland and Feliz didn't do consistently enough this weekend.

Washington said the inexperience of Feliz and Holland hampered them the past two days and more starts will help curtail those struggles.

Combined, Feliz and Holland have 78 starts while Lewis has 107, including 64 the past two seasons. That's not counting the 54 starts he had in Japan during the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

"That example was already set," Washington said. "Sometimes in this game you got to live with what you do and our young guys struggled a little bit in that situation. If you don't go through that, you don't know how to go through it. So they've been through it and just that experience of going through it will help them the next time. But what Colby did [Sunday], he's done before. I'm not shocked."

Lewis didn't pitch that badly in his last outing, but two errors resulted in five runs in a loss to Kansas City. Nothing extra was done between starts. Not even any mechanical changes to his delivery.

A 5-0 lead was what made him the most comfortable. He contributed to the lead with a two-out, two-run single, sending a cutter to center field that made the score 5-0.

"It keeps me more involved," Lewis said of hitting in interleague games. "I love the National League side of things."

What Washington loves is Lewis' ability to remain calm and get hitters out. Feliz and Holland are still learning how to accomplish that.

The two young pitchers have outstanding stuff, and can only improve with each outing. Lewis, meanwhile, is already there. He doesn't have a blazing fastball, but his slider and other off-speed pitches allow him to become a solid pitcher.

"I think I got ahead of guys a little bit better," Lewis said. "I think last start, I beat myself. Start before that yeah they beat me with every ball they hit. But [Sunday] it puts them on their heels when we jump out to a 5-0 lead and it's my job now to go out there and throw strikes and make them force the issue. It makes it a lot easier."

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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