ARLINGTON, Texas — Count on the veteran of the staff, the guy that has quietly gone out and pitched deep into games, to give the rest of an injury-depleted pitching staff the night off.
Colby Lewis did what the Texas Rangers needed most on Tuesday: He pitched all nine innings and helped his club secure a win to open a six-game homestand. With Alexi Ogando joining Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland on the disabled list, the Rangers were in need of a boost to help the bullpen for the rest of the week. Lewis provided it.
He had everything working Tuesday. His slider was nasty, carving up hitters. He surprised batters with a changeup that had great movement. And his fastball command was excellent. Lewis gave up just one run — on a Miguel Montero homer in the eighth — on four hits with seven strikeouts and one walk. He threw 105 pitches, and 72 of them were strikes.
“It’s amazing how this guy pounds the strike zone,” catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. “Whatever I put down, he executed it. It’s unbelievable — 3-2 changeup, the slider was filthy, pounded the fastball on both sides.”
Lewis was perfect for 5 1/3 innings, retiring the first 16 batters until he hung an 0-2 slider to Aaron Hill in the sixth. Lewis admitted he was thinking about it.
“You know you haven’t pitched out of the stretch,” Lewis said. “If you don’t know that you haven’t given up a hit, you’re lying. It was fun.”
For three seasons now, Lewis has said the same thing when asked what his goals are: pitch deep into games and give his team a chance to win.
“I put value in putting up innings and keeping the team in the game and going as deep as I can,” Lewis said. “That’s what I’ve always tried to do. Complete games will come and go, and there are days when you can’t get out of the first. It’s one of those things where Yorvit and I were on the same page tonight. I didn’t have to shake very much. It went fast. It was good.”
Tuesday was the 32-year-old’s second consecutive complete game after pitching eight innings in a 2-0 loss in Oakland last week. Lewis isn’t flashy. He doesn’t have the 95-mph fastball of Matt Harrison or the ridiculous movement of Yu Darvish on his breaking pitches. But he has command, a strong mental game and feels that his changeup is making him even more effective. That changeup was an important pitch for him Tuesday, especially when he got behind in the count.
“The changeup has been good the last two or three starts,” Lewis said. “I feel like it’s a pitch that’s coming around for me, and it definitely gives them that front-to-back look I haven’t had in the past. It’s another weapon and like I said, it’s been working good.”
Lewis’ plan for his next start isn’t any different than this one.
“We’ve got to go out there and take the ball every five days,” Lewis said. “That’s what I worked hard on in between starts is preparing the body and going out there and taking the ball. It keeps the core of the rotation intact.”
Spoken like a wily veteran.