ST. PETERSBURG -- Less is more. At least that's the standard by which Colby Lewis tends to live his life.The Rangers right-hander keeps his words to a minimum, his emotions displayed on a smaller scale. No wonder he dominated on baseball's biggest stage during last year's postseason -- all the while not surprising even himself in the least bit. "You know, I think just staying relaxed really, not really building up, not trying to do anything more than I was throughout the whole season," Lewis said. Seven years in the Minors, two spent tending to injuries and an additional pair in Japan, will lend you that perspective. Lewis, speaking to reporters on Sunday at Tropicana Field just a little more than 24 hours before his scheduled start in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, has lived through such a tale. And though some may view his stint with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japan Central League as something of an obstacle, Lewis will likely say it was anything but.
It was an opportunity, really, and one that resulted in countless blessings. Family time surely ranked at the top of the list. Embracing a new culture is likely on there, too. As is, of course, his ability to take advantage of the time to regain the form and confidence that led him back to the Majors as a front-line starter.Following two seasons with Hiroshima, which brought about a 26-17 record and 2.82 ERA, Lewis returned to the States in 2010, signing with Texas as a free agent before embarking on a career year that included a 3.72 ERA in 32 starts. As If the jury was still out on Lewis' worth in the big leagues, the righty silenced it completely by posting a 3-0 ledger and 1.71 ERA in four postseason starts. "I thought he threw all his pitches for strikes, commanded everything well, had a good game plan and had determination to go out there and do it," Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "He rose to the moment, kept his cool through everything." "If you keep your mentality and your approach the same, I felt like I just wanted to repeat kind of like having quality starts and keeping my team in the game," Lewis said. "I think that's what's key to any start. For me, last year it was coming back from Japan and stuff like that. I just felt like it was a good time. I mean, it was a time to go out and have fun and experience it all, and now we're back again and keep doing it, keep enjoying it." And not stray from what led him there in the first place. "I try to not let like this right here, the media and everything else, build it up to where it is more than just a start," said Lewis. "For me, I try to keep everything normal, keep the workouts the same, keep everything as familiar to me as possible. It doesn't matter if it's the second start in April or if it's seventh game of the World Series. I try to look at it the same and try to keep the same approach." Lewis was responsible for Texas' lone win during last year's World Series. The decision came in the confines of Rangers Ballpark, as did each of his other postseason victories. But a change of scenery on Monday shouldn't have much effect on a pitcher who went 9-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 17 starts on the road during the regular season, compared to a 5-5 mark and 5.54 ERA in Arlington. "Could be coincidental," Maddux said. Perhaps, but the same can't be said of his success he's produced when facing his Monday opponents. Lewis has never lost to the Rays. He carries with him a 13-inning scoreless streak against Tampa Bay in two outings since returning from Japan, including a five-inning performance in the 2010 ALDS. His most recent came June 1, when he struck out eight and allowed just four hits through eight innings. "I think past performance has a lot to say about a guy," Maddux said. "That's your comfort zone. I think guys that have been there, done that, those are the guys that end up making for attractive acquisitions. They have performed on the biggest stage, and they've prevailed." "When he can start moving the fastball around the zone, and his breaking ball has the depth that it carries, it makes him tough on any opponent," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. Washington's squad enters Monday in a 1-1 series tie with Tampa Bay, which is set to send out lefty David Price to the mound. Price is winless in eight career starts against Texas, two of which were in the playoffs. Lewis isn't about ready to let the law of averages beat his own game, though. "Even if things aren't right on or perfect or whatever you want to call it, if I'm getting outs," he said, "I feel like I can keep my team in the game, and that's all I want to do."