ARLINGTON -- This was the Japanese version of Colby Lewis, not the one Rangers fans might remember from five or six years ago. This was also the offense Rangers fans were expecting to see, not the two-man tag team on display during the three-game series against the Blue Jays. This time Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz had a little help to support the terrific performance turned in by Lewis, and the Rangers opened a three-game series against the Mariners with a 6-2 victory on Friday night at the Ballpark in Arlington.
"Colby did a great job for seven innings," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He gave us exactly what we needed." Guerrero and Cruz are still doing most of the heavy lifting. Both had a pair of hits, including Cruz's third home run of the season, and they have combined for 15 of the Rangers' first 28 hits. But they had help on Friday night, especially in a four-run sixth, when a one-out, rally-sparking walk by Josh Hamilton and a pair of two-out hits by Joaquin Arias and Elvis Andrus came up big. "It was nice to have others come through tonight," third baseman Michael Young said. "Those two guys have been good, they've been huge for us for obvious reasons. We've been a little slow out of the chute, and those guys picking us up has been massive. "Over the course of the season, we'll all have our time. You go up and down the lineup, and we've got guys who can put this team on their shoulders. Right now it's their time." The Rangers expect Hamilton to have his time as well, and he drove in his first run with an RBI double in the seventh. "The walk to me was just as big as anything," Hamilton said. "I felt more like my old self tonight, like I was at the end of Spring Training. I'm seeing pitches better and making them get the ball up. It was a good night. That's the way we expect to play." Lewis had a little bit of a rough start, giving up a double to Ichiro Suzuki to start the game and walking Chone Figgins. A wild pitch moved runners to second and third. Then came a big play when Casey Kotchman hit a sharp grounder to the right side. First baseman Chris Davis tried to make a diving stop to his right and couldn't do it. But he did deflect the ball off the tip of his glove enough to direct it toward second baseman Joaquin Arias, who flipped to Lewis covering for the out. A run scored, but Davis' effort may have cut off a bigger rally. Lewis struck out Milton Bradley and retired Ken Griffey Jr. on a fly to left to end the threat. "I told myself to pound the strike zone and everything will be fine, but I started off sort of timid," Lewis said. "I was kind of feeling for it at first and then I just let it loose." He did through seven smooth innings. He allowed one run on five hits and four walks while striking out three, delivering everything in an economical 103 pitches. Beginning with Kotchman's grounder, he went through a stretch of retiring 16 of 20 batters. He also got some help with a double play turned behind him and catcher Taylor Teagarden throwing out Suzuki trying to steal in the sixth. The Mariners did load the bases with one out in the seventh on a couple of singles and a walk. But Lewis shut the door by striking out Jack Wilson and getting Suzuki on a weak grounder to end the inning. "When good pitchers get into trouble, they minimize the damage," Washington said. "They don't panic. Colby just kept pounding the strike zone and using all his pitches." Rangers starters now have a 1.82 ERA over their first four games, but Lewis was the first one to be rewarded with a victory. This was his first Major League start since 2007, and he had a 7.15 ERA in 34 Major League starts prior to this. That was before he went 26-17 with a 2.82 ERA in 54 starts and one relief appearance over the past two years in Japan. That was the pitcher that took the mound on Friday night. "That's definitely a confidence booster," Lewis said. "I wanted to keep on doing what I've been doing the last couple of years, and throwing strikes -- that's the key. That's what we talk about every day."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.