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Texas' Lewis the go-to ace of postseason
His wind-up is clean and uncomplicated — as minimal as the man himself. Watch Colby Lewis throw and you’re struck by the realization he’s the anti-Tim Lincecum.
That’s the beauty of Lewis’ postseason and the magic he keeps conjuring, one start after another.
After defeating the Yankees twice in the ALCS, Lewis did it again against the Giants in Game 3 of the World Series, beating them 4-2 and lowering his October ERA to a crazy 1.73.
Is Lewis really this good? He is according to the hitters who describe the near-impossibility of squaring up on his pitches, how he paints corners, changes speeds and keeps switching their eye level.
These are the laws of pitching — following them turns good outings into great ones.
By limiting the Giants to two runs and five hits in 7.2 innings, Lewis was borderline brilliant in a game manager Ron Washington said “we had to have.”
But the getting to the crossroads is no sure thing, not with No. 4 starter Tommy Hunter on the mound and Washington insisting there’s no chance of using Lee instead on three days’ rest.
“As far as I was concerned, (No. 4 starter) Tommy Hunter always had the start (tonight),” Washington said. “He will start (tonight).”
There are two reasons why the manager won’t give in to the temptation of using his best pitcher tonight and thus have him available for Game 7.
The first is the most obvious: Lee doesn’t do short rest, never has, never will. The second is that the Rangers aren’t convinced C.J. Wilson, who would be asked to take the ball on short rest as well, in Game 5, is ready to throw after developing a blister on his left middle finger in Game 2.
Finally, the Rangers are staying in rotation because of their unwavering faith in Lewis — who, as of now, will be asked to save the season if there is a Game 7 at AT&T Park.
Lewis as savior: sounds impossible, doesn’t it? This is the same pitcher who spent the last two years in Japan, and who lined up this season behind Lee and Wilson. Unlike the Rangers’ front-line starters, Wilson had no gimmick, no hype, no ego whatsoever.
Lee, of course is a strike-throwing robot and soon to be heir to the Yankees’ limitless reservoir of free agency cash.
Wilson is no less charismatic — on Twitter, no less, with almost 40,000 following @Str8edgeracer.
Lewis, however, is closer to vapor. Trying to explain to him how the Rangers were under pressure in Game 3 was like teaching calculus to a drunk. It was hopeless.
In fact, Lewis was at his serene-best in the first inning, when the Giants had jump-started a mini-rally with runners on first and second and two out. The crowd at Rangers Ballpark was more than a little uncomfortable: these were, after all, the same Giants who’d scored 20 runs in the two games started by Lee and Wilson, and looked like they were loading up for another orgy.
Who could think otherwise? You nuke Lee, and nothing is impossible.
But Lewis wasn’t buying into any of it. He stood 60 feet, six inches from Pat Burrell and used cold logic to defuse the situation.
“I knew it was only the first inning, and it was still early,” Lewis said. “I told myself, 'all I have to do is command my pitches and I’ll get myself out of this.' “
He figured out that the big-swinging Burrell, although powerful, could be neutralized by expanding the strike zone. With a 2-2 count, Lewis did just that, delivering a slider that looked like it would whisper over the outside corner for the first 57 feet, then was whisked away from Burrell as if it’d been caught by a wind-shear.
Burrell missed by so much, he might as well have been trying to catch a dollar bill dropped from a helicopter. He struck out to end the inning, so over-matched that he never bothered to get angry. There was no bat toss, no helmet slam, no sense of remorse. There was only resignation, which is the ultimate sign of respect from a hitter who’s been outmaneuvered.
“(Lewis) threw a very good game against us,” is what Giants manager Bruce Bochy would later say. “He mixed his pitches up and kept us off balance. That’s a good team over there. We knew there was going to be a lot of baseball left (in this Series) once we got back here.”
The Giants knew they were pushing their luck, thinking they could take the first three from the American League champs. Sooner or later, reality would outsize the dream — Lewis was indeed the wake-up call the Giants had been expecting.
Now we’ll find out if Washington is the one leaning too hard on the fates, throwing Hunter at the Giants and risking a 3-1 deficit. That would mean having to win the last three games of the Series, including that looming apocalypse, Game 7 where the fans wear orange and black instead of red, where the PA announcer is a woman instead of the rodeo sound-alike at Rangers Ballpark.
There are a million more reasons why the Giants would love the chance to play nine innings of winner-take-all on their home field. But the Rangers have their own weapon — the impenetrable wall of calm that keeps Lewis throwing corner strikes, one inning at time in October.
Game 7? Bring it on, says the man who, lately, fears nothing at all.
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