ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis and catcher Yorvit Torrealba had a simple and what they figured would be an effective plan to get Corey Patterson to end the fifth inning in a 0-0 game. With the count 0-2, Lewis threw a high fastball to Patterson. And by high, the pitch was at least at the neck, maybe even at the eyes. Torrealba was standing up to catch it as Patterson hit it.
"I couldn't believe he hit that pitch," Rangers DH Michael Young said. "I couldn't do that."
But Patterson did, smoking the ball to right field for a game-changing, three-run homer.
"It was actually what I wanted, to be honest with you," Torrealba said. "When you have a guy that will chase a high fastball, I thought we'd throw one by him. But he was able to put it in play. Not only that, but hit it out of the ballpark. You have to give him credit. Not a lot of guys can hit a ball that high."
Lewis had a dazed and stunned look on his face, almost like a boxer who had just endured a particularly hard blow. He staggered after that, giving up two more homers, and by the time the inning was over it was 6-0.
Patterson, for his part, acknowleged that it was a pitch he probably hits "one out of 100" times.
"Honestly, I saw the ball well, put a good swing on it and when you see the ball, you'd be surprised what your body can do," Patterson said.
Patterson has been a Rangers killer the past two seasons. He is now hitting .325 (13-for-40) with five doubles, two homers and 14 RBIs in nine games against Texas in that span.
Lewis couldn't recover after that pitch. He threw a slider to Jose Bautista, who crushed it to the last row of the seats in left -- that's difficult to do, by the way -- and then Lewis walked Adam Lind before surrendering a homer to Juan Rivera on a pitch that he said was up and out of the zone.
"I don't know," Lewis said. "It was just a bad inning."
Lewis is trying to focus on what he did the first four innings, when he got out of some jams with good pitches and had solid command.
"I felt like tonight that this was the best stuff I've had all year," Lewis said. "I have to move forward and take the first four. I have to keep doing what I'm doing, go out there every five days and try to win. I want to take the first four innings and what I did in commanding the ball down in the zone and go from there."
Lewis has now given up eight homers in four starts this season. He gave up two homers in his first four starts of 2010. Strikeouts, such a big part of Lewis' line last season, aren't happening with the same regularity. He has 17 through the first four starts in 2011. Last year, he had 28 in his first four starts.
The bottom line: Lewis' command hasn't been what it was in 2010. He's still searching for it, though flashes of it showed up in those first four innings. Lewis will try to figure out what he was doing and apply that going forward so he can be more consistent. But so far, Lewis is sporting a 6.95 ERA in four starts and once reinforcements return, the Rangers will have some decisions to make. It's difficult to know what may happen when Tommy Hunter is ready to pitch in a game again, but Lewis is only worried about getting better and giving his team a chance to win games.
"Colby's fine," Young said. "He was cruising the whole game. I just have no idea how Patterson hit that pitch. Colby's fine. Don't worry about Colby."
One thing that was a concern coming into Monday's game was Lewis' velocity, which didn't hit 90 mph in his last start. It was over 90 mph Monday from the beginning. Now he has to get that command in order to go with it. The road doesn't get any easier for Lewis, who is slated to pitch the second game of a four-game series in Oakland this weekend against Brett Anderson.