ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington watched Colby Lewis allow eight of the first 11 hitters he faced reach base and knew his bullpen could be in trouble. The Rangers' rotation went into Sunday's game averaging 4 1/3 innings per start over their last seven outings and Lewis looked early on like he wasn't going to get even that far. Washington wasn't sure what the alternative was going to be. "I didn't want to think about it," Washington said.
Turns out, he didn't have it. Lewis struggled at first, but then made a dramatic turnaround that enabled the Rangers to rally for an 8-4 victory over the Tigers at the Ballpark in Arlington on Sunday. Michael Young and David Murphy sparked the offense after the Rangers trailed 3-0 in the top of the first, and Texas has now won three of its last four games. Murphy provided an immediate response to the Rangers' early deficit by hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the first off Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello. Young, who scored ahead of him after a one-out single, did much of the heavy lifting the rest of the way with a three-run double in the second and a two-run single in the fifth. Both hits came with the bases loaded. Young is now hitting .345 in his career in those situations. "We needed one of the guys in the middle of our lineup to put up the kind of day Michael did," Washington said. Lewis' day started off ominously. His first two pitches to Tigers leadoff hitter Austin Jackson were balls. His third pitch was a strike and Jackson hit it over the center-field wall for a home run. Rafael Santiago then singled and Johnny Damon brought him home with a double, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead after three hitters. A two-out single by Don Kelly made it 3-0 before Lewis was able to get out of the inning. But the second, even after Murphy's homer, started out just as tough. Scott Sizemore led off with a single and Jackson doubled, putting runners on second and third. Santiago singled home one run, giving the Tigers runners at the corners with nobody out. Then everything changed for Lewis. Completely. "I think I was trying to throw my fastball too much," Lewis said. "I started mixing in my offspeed stuff, and I was able to keep them off-balance. I was able to command my offspeed stuff and I was able to get them off my fastball." Lewis, working well with catcher Matt Treanor, struck out Damon and got Miguel Cabrera to hit a grounder up the middle that shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Andres Blanco turned into an inning-ending double play. "We really needed that," Washington said. Lewis, beginning with the Damon strikeout, ended up retiring 15 straight hitters before leaving after issuing a one-out walk in the seventh. He ended up striking out 10 for the second time in four starts. Nolan Ryan (1989) and Bobby Witt ('86) are the only two other Rangers pitchers who have had 10 or more strikeouts in multiple April games. "Treanor and Lewis did a great job of changing their stride," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "They changed their direction in the middle of the stream. They saw some things that weren't working and they changed it." Porcello was unable to make the same adjustment. Instead, the Rangers touched him up for six runs on 10 hits in four innings, and he is now 1-2 with a 7.91 ERA. "I don't think his stuff was on today," Murphy said. "He's a sinker guy and when he got the ball up in the zone, we made him pay." The bottom of the order started the rally in the second. Treanor, Blanco and Julio Borbon loaded the bases with three straight singles and Andrus drew a walk to force in a run. Young followed with his three-run double. Young's fifth-inning single came off of Dontrelle Willis, who pitched an inning in relief on Sunday one day after being scratched from his start because of a virus.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.