Commentary

Quality starts in demand for Texas

No Rangers pitcher has gone deeper than Colby Lewis, who starts Game 2

Updated: October 20, 2011, 3:03 PM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

ST. LOUIS -- C.J. Wilson came oh, so tantalizingly close. Just one more out -- a weak grounder, a high popup, even a long drive to the warning track, ANYTHING -- and he would have had a quality start, the first by a Rangers starter in more than two weeks.

Instead, Wilson left Game 1 of the World Series with two outs in the sixth inning Wednesday night, and Texas lost 3-2 to the Cardinals. And so now it falls to starter Colby Lewis to snap the Rangers' long drought of quality starts Thursday night in Game 2.

It's amazing that the Rangers have gotten this far with such lackluster starting pitching this month. Their starters are a combined 3-4 with a 5.53 ERA this postseason and have thrown six innings only two times, and none of them has breathed the rarefied air of the seventh inning. Thank you, bullpen.

It tells you something about how badly they've pitched that Wilson's walking six batters and hitting another in Game 1 was deemed "a good job'' by manager Ron Washington.

Of course, it's not like the Cardinals' rotation has looked like it has Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, either. Chris Carpenter pitched well in Game 1 on Wednesday (two runs in six innings), and that was the Cardinals' first quality start since his 1-0 gem over Roy Halladay in the division series clincher.

Carpenter and his fellow St. Louis starters went 1-2 with a 7.03 ERA against the Brewers and needed their bullpen to bail them out every bit as much as the Texas starters did. And those relievers had to go to work early. Carpenter was the only St. Louis starter to pitch as many as five innings, and five innings is as far as he went.

[+] EnlargeJaime Garcia
Tannen Maury/Pool/Getty ImagesCardinals starter Jaime Garcia, 0-2 with a 5.74 ERA this postseason, hasn't won since Sept. 21.

Jaime Garcia starts Game 2 for the Cardinals after going 0-1 with a 7.27 ERA in two NLCS starts. He was 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in the division series.

"To be honest with you, the last month of the year is the best I've felt because I learned a lot,'' Garcia said. "Obviously, I'm a little tired physically, but I was able to make some adjustments on some stuff that I was working on all year. And the last three starts I've made in the postseason, with the exception of the one in Milwaukee, I felt pretty good.''

Garcia is the first Mexican pitcher to start a World Series game since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981. "I'm thrilled to hear that,'' he said, "and I'm going to go out there and represent the team, my family and not only my hometown but the whole country of Mexico.''

The Rangers will be satisfied if Lewis simply provides a good representation for a rotation that had the third-lowest ERA in the league this season but has struggled this month. He is a good candidate to do that given that he's not only the lone Texas starter to throw a quality start this postseason, but also the only one to throw six innings and allow fewer than six runs at the same time.

"Having a right-handed guy like Colby with a good breaking ball and good fastball command is a good match for our side against them,'' Wilson said. "Also, he's a good matchup batting against Garcia.''

[+] EnlargeColby Lewis
Andrew Weber/US PresswireColby Lewis is 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA in six career postseason starts.

Lewis has another thing going for him at Busch Stadium. His ERA was two runs lower on the road (3.43) than it was in Arlington (5.54). He also has a good track record in the postseason, going 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA last year (he, not Cliff Lee, earned the Rangers' lone World Series victory); in addition, earlier this month, Lewis recorded a one-hit, one-run victory against the Rays in Game 3 of the division series.

"You can't really worry about your what-ifs or anything like that. You just focus on the one pitch that you have at hand and do it,'' Lewis said of pitching in the postseason. "I mean, it's comfortable, it's exciting, the stands are packed, towels are waving. It's kind of hard not to get pumped up for it, you know?''

Both bullpens have been exceptional this postseason, but at some point the starting pitching has to come through. Carpenter did for St. Louis. Now Texas needs Lewis to do the same.

"Obviously, we've come to depend on him in the postseason,'' first baseman Michael Young said. "And he's always come through, and that's what we're looking forward to [in Game 2].''

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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Senior Writer, ESPN.com