Rangers confident Lewis can finish off Yanks

Rangers confident Lewis can finish off Yanks

ARLINGTON -- They have the ultimate insurance policy waiting for them in Cliff Lee for a possible Game 7 of their American League Championship Series with the Yankees, but the Rangers say they are plenty confident in Game 6 starter Colby Lewis.

"Colby's pitched great all year," Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson said. "The only thing he was plagued with has been poor run support. He struck out [almost] 200 dudes this year, so anybody that does that in the modern era of baseball is pretty good as far as I'm concerned."

"We certainly have a high level of confidence in Colby," Texas manager Ron Washington said.

And why not? With the Rangers coming off a gut-wrenching loss in Game 1, Lewis allowed just two runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings as Texas rolled to a 7-2 win in Game 2, the first of three consecutive wins that put the Rangers one victory away from the World Series.

"I don't know if it does, but it should," catcher Bengie Molina said when asked if Game 2 should serve as a confidence booster for Lewis. "He should pitch well, he should be rested. We'll see what happens. We just have to play hard and whatever happens, happens."

Lewis seemed at ease answering questions during a news conference prior to the Rangers' workout Thursday.

"Of course you want to finish as quick as you can, but I don't think there's any extra added pressure on us or anything like that," Lewis said about the possibility of closing things out Friday night. "We are really comfortable. The clubhouse is really relaxed. We are back at home where we have been playing really well, and we just have to go out and take care of it. I mean, that's all there is to it."

The Rangers had a chance to wrap things up Wednesday in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, but Lewis was always focused on Game 6.

Sure, the right-hander would have rather seen his Texas teammates wrap up the series and delay his next start until the World Series, but he had to be prepared should things not go according to plan.

"I went through my routine and schedule and everything else," Lewis said of his mind-set before Game 5.

In two starts this postseason -- with the other coming in Game 3 of the AL Division Series -- Lewis has allowed just two runs in 10 2/3 innings.

The only negative has been his control. He has allowed eight walks while fanning 11, and against the Yankees, who make the opposing pitcher work for each and every strike, falling behind is a recipe for disaster.

"Command your pitches," Lewis said. "With any start, really, that's all you have to do to be successful is not walk guys and get outs. A team of any caliber -- it doesn't matter who you're facing. It doesn't matter if it's [Yankees shortstop Derek] Jeter or a rookie, if you make a mistake, they're going to take advantage of it. So you just have to be able to command your pitches, make pitches when you need to and that's about it."

Prior to Game 2, the Yankees had not faced Lewis since 2003, so their knowledge of what to expect was limited to video and scouting reports. Now that they've gotten a look at him, they should have a better idea of how to deal with him.

Does that mean he will need to make adjustments in how he approaches the New York hitters?

"You adjust to how you're feeling that day, how you're warming up, and you make adjustments from there," Lewis said.

That he is pitching in the ALCS a year after wrapping up his second season pitching in Japan is, in itself, an accomplishment.

"To tell me that I'd be in this situation two years ago when I was thinking [about] finishing up my career in Japan, I would have told you you'd be nuts," Lewis said. "But it's a situation where I'm totally grateful for it, and grateful for the opportunity that the Rangers gave me to come back and continue to prove my talents here in the States. You know, I just want to go out and do what I've been doing all year -- try to give a quality start and leave it in the hands of the hitters."

That's just fine by his teammates.

"He's been awesome for us all year long," outfielder Nelson Cruz said. "Hopefully, we'll score a couple of runs for him and give him a chance to go out there and make all the pitches he wants to make."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.