By Sean McAdam
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Track Colby Lewis' career path and it begins to resemble one of those Family Circus cartoons, the ones where the kids take the most indirect routes to their intended destination.
If Lewis had a theme song, it would be "I've Been Everywhere,'' -- because he has. In the last 11 years, Lewis has been with five major league organizations, claimed on waivers twice and released twice. He spent the a few years in Japan before coming back to the Texas Rangers last winter.
Act II in Lewis' baseball life has been far more successful than the first. He won a dozen games for the Rangers this season and should have won more -- he had a 3.72 ERA in a hitter-friendly ballpark -- but for poor run support.
In the post-season, he's been the staff's unlikely ace. He won Game 2 in the ALCS after the Rangers' bullpen imploded in the late innings of Game 1. He won the ALCS clincher after the Yankees had fought off elimination.
And Saturday night, for his latest trick, Lewis brought the Rangers back into the World Series, limiting them to two runs over 7 23 innings in a 4-2 Texas victory.
A loss Saturday night and the Rangers might have been forced to deploy Cliff Lee in Game 4 to avoid an embarrassing sweep at home. Instead, the World Series is a series after all.
"We certainly needed it,'' gushed manager Ron Washington, "and (Lewis) stepped up and gave us what we needed. He did a tremendous job. Can't say any more than that.''
No need to, either. Mitch Moreland supplied a three-run homer, Josh Hamilton added a solo shot and Neftali Feliz, having apparently spent much of the post-season in the Witness Protection Plan, re-emerged to mowdown the Giants in the ninth.
But it was Lewis who was the key to this win. The San Francisco offense, often punchless during the season, somehow had totaled 20 runs in the first two games of the Series, but Lewis put a stop to that.
"We have a lot of trust in him,'' said catcher Bengie Molina. "Colby's been doing the job all season. I don't think this is a surprise to anybody in this clubhouse. The way he pitched tonight is the way he pitched all year.''
Through the first five innings, the Giants had just two hits, both singles. From the second through the fifth, he pitched to just one batter over the minimum. He threw strikes, worked quickly and kept the momentum in his team's dugout.
"He's a horse,'' said third baseman Michael Young. "He takes the ball and he competes all the time -- every pitch. Those are the kind of guys you really want to play defense behind.''
Young knows of what he speaks, as he's the only member of the Rangers who was here when Lewis was here in his first incarnation.
"The first time he was here, he was just a power guy,'' recounted Young. "He was 96-98 (mph) with a power hook. Then he comes back from Japan and he has great command and (his slider is now his) out pitch. But now he has better command, and has an idea of what he wants to do. That's called pitching and for some guys it takes a while.
"But Colby's there now. He knows exactly what he wants to do.''
Just as baseball's post-season usually offers up obscure position players (Brian Doyle, anyone?) who rise to the challenge, so it is with pitchers. Tim Lincecum is the most publicized pitcher on the San Francisco staff, but it's been Matt Cain who's been their best starter since the playoffs began.
It's the same with Texas. Cliff Lee was their ace, but fared poorly in Game 1 and quickly put his team behind. It was left to Lewis to start cutting into the Giants' 2-0 lead.
"We definitely didn't want to go three (games) down,'' said Lewis. "The last two years, I wasn't thinking I would have this opportunity. But I'm here, trying to make the most of it. It's a great feeling to be back here and to do it on this stage.''
From Texas to Detroit, to Washington to Oakland to Kansas City to Japan and back to Texas, again, Lewis has been everywhere. Now 3-0 after three Texas losses, the Rangers are glad he's here.