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Lewis not rattled by pressure of Game 3

Lewis not rattled by pressure of Game 3

ARLINGTON -- Back in Texas and in an 0-2 hole in the World Series, the Rangers have history working against them and, they hope, Colby Lewis working for them Saturday night at Rangers Ballpark.

Because as daunting as this deficit against the Giants is, it might become downright insurmountable if the Rangers lose Game 3.

Considering both of Lewis' wins in the American League Championship Series came after a Rangers loss, the right-hander would appear to be the right man for this assignment, which he is trying to approach as any other.

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"I want to try to keep the same mind-set," he said Friday, before the Rangers held a workout at home. "If you try to get too amped or too overly confident, I think you get yourself in trouble. So I just try to stay relaxed and just look at it like it's another start."

Don't kid yourself, Colby. It's not.

No team has come back from an 0-2 deficit in the Series since the 1996 Yankees. In fact, only 11 of the 51 teams that have fallen into such a hole have gotten out of it.

But as bad as that sounds, consider that no team has ever recovered from an 0-3 start to this best-of-seven.

The pressure, then, is on for Lewis. Not that he'd admit feeling it.

"I've always kind of just wanted to go out and give my team a quality start," Lewis said. "You know, just being aggressive, trying to keep guys off the basepaths. It seems like they've done a really good job with that, getting guys on and getting some key hits. So we're just going to basically try to lock that down."

Lewis was in lockdown mode in the ALCS. He didn't get the Cliff Lee treatment, in terms of hyperbole and attention. But he is just as much a reason as Lee for the Rangers advancing to the Fall Classic.

Tale of the Tape: World Series Game 3
2010 Regular Season
Overall: 32 GS, 12-13, 3.72 ERA, 65 BB, 196 K
Overall: 34 G, 33 GS, 13-9, 3.07 ERA, 96 BB, 205 K
Key stat: Eleven postseason walks are most of all pitchers
Key stat: 2-1 with 2.88 ERA in five starts following outings in which he didn't make it to the fifth inning
Postseason
2010: 3 GS, 2-0, 1.45 ERA
Career: 3 GS, 2-0, 1.45 ERA
2010: 3 GS, 0-1, 2.93 ERA
Career: 3 GS, 0-1, 2.93 ERA
At RANGERS BALLPARK
2010: 17 GS, 8-4, 3.07 ERA Career: 42 G, 33 GS, 15-9, 4.79 ERA
2010: N/A Career: N/A
Against this opponent
2010: N/A Career: 1 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA
2010: N/A Career: 1 G, 1-0, 0.00 ERA
Loves to face: Mike Fontenot (1-for-3)
Hates to face: Aubrey Huff (2-for-4, 1 HR)
Loves to face: Jeff Francoeur (2-for-14)
Hates to face: Jorge Cantu (2-for-6)
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: Coming off best outing (8 innings, 1 run, 7 K's) in a month
Why he'll win: When stuff is on and mind is right, one of the best lefties in the game
Pitcher beware: Giants have won each of their first road games this postseason
Pitcher beware: Struggled in last NLCS outing, lasting only two-plus innings
Bottom line: Confident power pitcher
Bottom line: Must control emotions

You could have made a strong argument for Lewis as the ALCS MVP. He was 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in two starts against the Yankees, walking six, striking out 13 and allowing nine hits in 13 2/3 innings.

Though the Rangers were confident in having Lee waiting in the wings to pitch a Game 7 against the Yanks, they certainly wanted to avoid that scenario altogether. And it was Lewis who closed the door on New York with eight magnificent innings of work in Game 6, sending the Rangers to their first AL pennant.

So, what can he do for an encore?

Well, try saving the Rangers' season.

His teammates are certain he can do it.

"We have confidence in all of our starters," third baseman Michael Young said. "But Colby's coming off the win that got us to the World Series, and we have a ton of confidence in him."

The confidence comes, in part, from Lewis' ability to work himself out of trouble with the strikeout. The Giants are an aggressive team at the plate, and Lewis, who struck out 196 in the regular season, hopes to take advantage of that.

"He has swing-and-miss stuff," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "When he's commanding the strike zone, he's as tough as any pitcher in the game. We've needed him twice so far in this postseason, and he's come through, and that's why we're so confident with Colby."

What Lewis has done this year and this postseason is even more impressive when you consider his path. He is the prodigal son who returned from Japan to claim the Rangers rotation spot once deemed destined for him.

By now, you know the story of how Lewis revived his career by spending the 2008 and '09 seasons in the Japanese Central League. But just as a quick refresher course, we remind you that Lewis had been the Rangers' compensation pick between the first and second rounds in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, got hurt, got placed on waivers, bounced around with a few Major and Minor League teams and then latched on with Hiroshima to try to make a few bucks.

"The fans over there, it seems like it's always a sellout," he said. "It's a good time, and it's always noisy, it's always loud. I think that's what kind of helps me coming back here with the noise and the celebration and everybody cheering and stuff like that. There's no real big difference, though."

It was a different Lewis who returned to the Majors this year. Usually, those who cross the Pacific don't make it back to the big leagues. Japan tends to be a last resort, not a springboard. Yet Lewis used his time there to refine a more compact delivery than he had been using in the States, to add a cutter to his repertoire and to become a more consistent strike-thrower.

The Rangers took notice, signed Lewis to a two-year, $5 million deal and then watched him go 12-13 with a 3.72 ERA to help guide them to the AL West title. Then they watched him pitch lights-out in that Game 6 clincher last week.

It's a great story. But as Game 3 dawns, the story is not complete. Though he wants to treat this as any other outing, Lewis will be making the start of his life Saturday night.

"We have to win four out of five," he said. "So there's really no room for error. It's just a situation where we're back at home, and we played really well here, and I'm looking forward to it."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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