Travelin' man: Lewis out to give Texas 3-0 edge
Right-hander back in October comfort zone facing host Tigers
ARLINGTON -- Colby Lewis always has been there for his teammates, especially on the mound in postseason play, so it was with trepidation and a certain level of disappointment he headed to Detroit on Monday ahead of them, ensuring he'd be well-rested for Tuesday's Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.
But he'll gladly welcome them to the Motor City when they arrive carrying a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series. And the Rangers gladly will put the ball in the hands of a right-hander who has gone 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA through the first five postseason starts of his career.
As the Rangers celebrated their Game 2 victory, the prospect of having Lewis on the mound in a game that could put them one win away from a second World Series appearance was another shot of confidence for a Rangers team brimming with it.
"We've got great confidence in Colby," said catcher Mike Napoli. "Everyone likes playing behind that guy. He gets the ball and gets after it every time. He works quick, the defense plays good behind him. We expect good things out of that guy."
While the Rangers were taking on the Tigers in Game 2, Lewis had a plane reservation to get him to Detroit in plenty of time to get a good night's sleep before his Game 3 start.
- 2011 Regular Season
- Overall: 32 GS, 14-10, 4.40 ERA, 56 BB, 169 K
- Overall: 31 GS, 11-13, 2.83 ERA, 37 BB, 146 K
- Key stat: 3.43 ERA on the road in the regular season, compared to 5.54 at home
- Key stat: Averaged 7.3 K/9 in regular season after joining the Tigers
- At Comerica Park
- 2011: 1 GS, 0-0, 9.00
Career: 2 GS, 0-1, 5.79
- 2011: 6 GS, 4-1, 1.61
Career: 7 GS, 4-2, 2.37
- Against this opponent
- 2011: 2 GS, 0-1, 15.95
Career: 5 GS, 2-2, 7.48
- 2011: 2 GS, 1-1, 3.68
Career: 6 GS, 2-3, 4.38
- Loves to face: Brandon Inge, 0-for-7
Hates to face: Austin Jackson, 6-for-15
- Loves to face: Elvis Andrus, 3-for-19
Hates to face: David Murphy, 6-for-16
- Game breakdown
- Why he'll win: Righties hit .204 off him this regular season
- Why he'll win: Gave up five ER in 36 2/3 IP at home with the Tigers
- Pitcher beware: Tigers have owned him this season and in career
- Pitcher beware: 6.52 ERA in two postseason starts
- Bottom line: Shut down Tigers righties
- Bottom line: Home cooking
His whole body wasn't going to be there with the Rangers for Game 2, but his thumbs were going to be all over it, as he planned to check his mobile device often to keep tabs on the second of two opening games at Rangers Ballpark.
"I'm going to try to get updates on my phone," Lewis said prior to departing for Detroit.
Lewis said he wanted to be there for his teammates to lend them support in Game 2, but he understood why that wasn't going to happen.
"You have to look at the whole perspective on things, travel early and try to get a good night's sleep and go get them [Tuesday]," Lewis said.
That's the way the Rangers have worked things in the regular season, and that's the way it was going to be for Lewis after Monday became not an off-day, as originally scheduled, but the day Game 2 is being played, thanks to Sunday's postponement.
"All year we did this with our starters," manager Ron Washington said. "We got them into the town the day before we got there. You never know what may happen during the course of a ballgame and what time you arrive. At least we know our starter is fresh and ready to go."
Based on past performance, the Rangers knew that about Lewis already, now that it's the postseason.
Throughout the 2010 postseason and in his AL Division Series start against Tampa Bay, Lewis has been lights-out. Last year, he went 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four postseason outings, all of which were at Rangers Ballpark, including the Game 3 World Series victory. He followed that up with a gem in the ALDS against the Rays last week, allowing just one hit -- a home run by Desmond Jennings -- over six innings, keeping the Rangers in position to mount a four-run rally in the seventh inning and hold on for a 4-3 win that turned the tide of the series.
After posting a 4.40 ERA during the regular season, the highest in the Texas rotation and higher than the year before, Lewis found a comfort zone again once the postseason switch was flipped.
"You know, for me, I think it's just October, it's either win or go home," Lewis said after that victory against Tampa Bay.
Lewis will be making this start against a Tigers team that had his number in two starts this season, knocking him around for 14 runs (13 earned) on 20 hits in a combined 7 1/3 innings. Catcher Alex Avila touched him for a pair of homers and middle-of-the-order hitters Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez each registered three hits off Lewis.
While Lewis no doubt can draw upon his postseason past and surely must draw inspiration and energy from his winding road from No. 1 Draft pick to a stint in Japan to consecutive trips to the postseason with the Rangers, those outings against Detroit -- one at each team's venue -- aren't items he stores in his memory bank.
"You don't really worry about anything in the past," he said. "Once it's over, it's done with, you just walk in the dugout and forget about it and move forward and prepare yourself for the next day."
Besides, this is the postseason, and Lewis is clearly a different animal in October, one who so far has devoured opponents each time he has had an opportunity.
"The only thing I expect out of Colby is what we expected all year, and what he's given us all year: Keep us in the ballgame," Washington said.
That's what Lewis did in his 2011 postseason debut, and he'll be back in that October comfort zone again once he arrives in Detroit -- and especially once his teammates arrive there to join him in their quest for another AL pennant.
Once on the mound in Detroit with Rangers all around him, he'll be right at home.
"The more you do it, the more you go out there, the more you understand what it takes to perform and be on that stage," Lewis said.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.