MILWAUKEE (AP) — Two strong seasons in Japan gave Colby Lewis another chance in the major leagues.
Lewis won two strikeout titles in the Central League during his time overseas, and all the hitting he did turned out to be a big bonus for the rejuvenated right-hander.
Lewis scattered three hits over eight innings and added a key two-out single with the bases loaded to lead the Texas Rangers to a 7-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.
“The last two years, I was able to swing the bat kind of like a National Leaguer over there in Japan,” said Lewis, who spent the previous two seasons with the Hiroshima Carp before signing in the offseason with Texas. “I feel like it was a little bit of an advantage just to see a lot of pitches the last two years, just getting at-bats in Japan.”
Josh Hamilton homered for the AL West-leading Rangers, who won their fifth in six games and handed Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo (6-3) his first loss since April 10.
“On any given day, anybody can get beat,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Today was his day.”
Gallardo trailed 2-1 when he intentionally walked Andres Blanco in the sixth to get to Lewis, who snapped a 25 at-bat hitless streak for Rangers pitchers with the first hit of his career past outstretched third baseman Casey McGehee.
“I’ve seen him bat before that, he’d put some good swings on it. I was praying he would get a hit,” Hamilton said.
Lewis (6-4) finished with two, but was just as good on the mound with a career high-tying 10 strikeouts and one walk. His only mistakes came against Prince Fielder, who hit two solo homers for Milwaukee.
Hamilton has homered in four of the last five games to give him 15 this season. His 10-game hitting streak matches his career best and he leads the majors in RBIs in June with 19.
“He’s swinging the bat as well as I’ve seen him swing it,” Washington said.
The Rangers slugger drew oohs, then boos from the crowd in the fourth. Hamilton swung and missed on a breaking ball, flinging the bat out his hands as it sailed more than 100 feet away and six rows deep, clanging off an empty seat.
“That’s just normal me,” Hamilton said. “For some reason, I just throw it away. It’s amazing. That’s my favorite bat. It’s always my favorite bat, too.”
Three pitches later with a new bat in his hands, he crushed Gallardo’s offspeed offering to right field for a two-run shot to give Texas a 2-1 lead.
In the sixth, Vladimir Guerrero extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a leadoff single before Hamilton doubled. After two strikeouts, Blanco, hitting .204, was walked intentionally to bring up Lewis.
Lewis followed with a gritty eight-pitch at-bat. He fouled away several fastballs and hit another offering off his foot before taking Gallardo’s low curveball down the left-field line to give Texas a 4-1 lead.
“I was kind of surprised he was able to keep it fair,” said Gallardo, who struck out 10 but had his winning streak snapped at six. “I was pretty upset. I walked the guy in front to pitch to the pitcher and with two strikes he just fouled them off. He does have a bat in his hands so anything is possible.”
Hamilton’s run-scoring groundout in the seventh and Julio Borbon’s two-out, two-run double in the eighth off the Brewers bullpen made it 7-2.
Fielder had been slumping at the plate recently, but looked more comfortable after finishing Saturday night’s 4-3 loss 0 for 5, including the final out with the tying run at third.
The first baseman’s second home run of the game, a towering shot in the sixth, bounced high off the batter’s eye to give him 12 this season and cut Texas’ lead to 4-2, but Milwaukee could get no closer. Fielder, who has played in 248 straight games, insists he’s comfortable at the plate.
“It’s the same. You just go out there and try to feel good before the game and after that let it fly,” he said. “It’s not easy, but I’m not going to take a day off so I’ve got to get ready for the next day.”
NOTES: The Brewers are an NL-worst 11-19 at home. … Borbon also has an 11-game hitting streak. … Rangers 3B Michael Young doubled in the fourth and is one hit away from tying Ivan Rodriguez’s franchise mark at 1,747. … Rangers 1B Justin Smoak went 0 for 5 with five strikeouts, the first time a Rangers player has done that in a nine-inning game. … Brewers LHP Doug Davis (inflammation of heart membrane) and Brewers RHP Todd Coffey (right thumb) are expected to go on rehab assignments this week.