Colby Lewis drops the hammer

ST. LOUIS -- Colby Lewis has never had the title of ace or been tabbed the No. 1. But there should be little debate that Lewis is the Texas Rangers' most trusted postseason starter.

He had his best stuff on display in a critical Game 2 on Thursday night against the St. Louis Cardinals and even though the win eluded him, Lewis' stellar 6 2/3 innings kept the stymied Rangers' offense against Jaime Garcia just one big inning away from gaining a split. It finally happened in the ninth with Lewis watching from the bench and leaving overly satisfied with a no-decision in the 2-1 Texas win.

"The biggest thing was trying to match zeroes and keep your team in the ballgame," Lewis said.

Lewis left with two outs in the seventh inning in a near-identical situation to that of C.J. Wilson in Game 1. With two outs and David Freese on second, Lewis couldn't put away pesky Nick Punto with a two-strike count. Punto singled off a slider to put runners at the corners.

"That's probably one pitch I'd want back in that situation," Lewis said. "Especially in the seventh, late in the game."

That guaranteed a pinch hitter for Garcia and ended Lewis' night after 96 pitches and fire still in his belly.

Out of the Cardinals dugout came Game 1 pinch-hit hero Allen Craig, who tagged Alexi Ogando for the go-ahead run. Rangers manager Ron Washington made the slow walk to the mound.

"I would have liked to stay out, but when Wash makes the decision, he makes the decision," Lewis said. "But it's strictly a managerial move and like I said, Ogando's been great and the bullpen's been outstanding this postseason."

But, for the second consecutive night Craig got the best of Ogando, singling in the go-ahead run again for a 1-0 St. Louis lead, and suddenly Lewis was a candidate for a hard-luck loss.

"It's still just 1-0. Look at our lineup, it's just one pitch from tying up the ballgame, so I wasn't real concerned," Lewis said. "Yes, it's unfortunate that we went down late, but like you saw, we did the small things without the homer."

Lewis had been the club's No. 3 starter in the first two rounds, giving him just one start in each series. But Washington decided to move Lewis up to Game 2 for the World Series. Washington downplays the notion that he has strategically lined up Lewis to pitch on the road, where his ERA during the regular season was more than two points lower than his home ERA and he had given the dreaded long ball far less frequently.

He kept everything in the park Thursday night, allowing only a third-inning, two-out double to Rafael Furcal, a fifth-inning single to Punto and then two singles in the seventh to Freese and a second one to Punto.

The Texas starting rotation now has two quality starts under its belt in this postseason, and Lewis has both of them. This Game 2 gem iarguably goes down as the most determined effort of his career, challenging the eight innings he threw in the ALCS clincher last season to beat the Yankees.

"Colby is that type of player," right fielder Nelson Cruz said. "He did that last year in the playoffs and he's doing it again in the playoffs. He's been awesome for us."

The win over the Yankees got the Rangers into the World Series. This one might have saved it.