SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Colby Lewis didn't have his best stuff Thursday, but he wasn't concerned about it, either. He simply shrugged his shoulders, gave the Chicago Cubs credit and vowed that he'd try to do better in his next start after allowing six runs on nine hits in five innings of an 11-4 loss.
Lewis noted that he gave up four of his runs on two bad pitches to Joe Mather, one of the hottest hitters in the Cactus League, and Alfonso Soriano, who blasted home runs to give the Cubs an early lead. Other than that, Lewis said he was pleased with his slider and changeup and his ability to induce some ground balls.
"They earned it," Lewis said. "But I was able to do some things. I was able to move the ball in and out when I wanted to and throw breaking balls for strikes and down [in the zone] and curve balls for outs. My changeup was really good."
Lewis said his No. 1 job was to get his five innings in, work on his location and keep building his arm strength. One focus Thursday was to throw inside and he was pleased with how he did that, even to left-handed hitters.
"Sometimes you get swings and misses and sometimes you don't," Lewis said. "The slider was really good today, but they spit on it when it wasn't in the zone. I got ambushed a couple of times with guys swinging at first-pitch fastballs. But I'm trying to go out there and pound strikes and get ahead of guys. I don't felt like I hurt myself. I didn't walk a whole bunch of guys. They hit some balls I missed."
Lewis walked just one batter and got three strikeouts and six ground-ball outs. He said that despite the results, he felt about the same about his repertoire as he did in his last Cactus League start, four scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox with five strikeouts.
Nathan impressive: The Rangers' closer finally got to pitch the ninth inning for the first time this spring and pitched well. He faced Cubs minor leaguers, but threw strikes, had his velocity where he wanted it (hit 93 mph several times on the fastball) and got three straight outs. Nathan had allowed six runs on five hits in his last two Cactus League innings, so putting together a solid inning was big for him. More on Nathan on the blog later.
Big blast: Joe Mather crushed a two-run homer off Lewis in the second on the first pitch he saw. Mather, vying for a bench spot with the Cubs this spring, leads the team in RBIs this spring with 12. Lewis allowed an AL-high 35 homers in 2011.
Defensive gem: Ian Kinsler backhanded a ball behind the second base bag hit by Blake DeWitt in the first inning and made an off-balance throw to Michael Young and first base to get the out. Kinsler had a long way to go and still managed to make the play.
Good throw: The Cubs tested Craig Gentry's arm in the fourth inning. Geovany Soto decided to try to tag up from first to second on a ball hit to deep center field. Gentry caught it and immediately threw the ball to second. Kinsler gloved it and had enough time to turn and make the tag.
Nice tag: Elvis Andrus slid over to cover second base as Joe Mather tried to steal second with two outs in the fourth. Mike Napoli's throw was to the first-base side of the bag and not particularly close, but Andrus snagged it and quickly slapped the tag on a sliding Mather to record the out. It was a terrific athletic play.
Patience: Young, who came into the game with two walks in 28 plate appearances this spring, walked twice Thursday and had a single. He also played first base, a position he played some in 2011 and could see some time when needed in 2012.
Uehara struggles: Koji Uehara continues to have difficulties this spring. After getting a 1-2-3 inning against the Cubs on Tuesday, Uehara couldn't duplicate the feat on Thursday. He allowed four runs on three hits and one walk (on four pitches). Three of the runs scored on a homer by Brett Jackson.
Lowe-down: Mark Lowe allowed a run on a solo homer in his lone inning of work and was pleased that he was able to limit the damage.
"That’s the worst I’ve felt all spring as far as everything working," Lowe said. "Only giving up one run with nothing working … I’ll take it. I battled and made it through."