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Lewis stays under radar despite being Rangers' Mr. October

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- We ignore Colby Lewis. We always do.

Pitching matchup of the night? Justin Verlander vs. CC Sabathia, obviously.

The pitcher most mentioned Monday afternoon at Tropicana Field? David Price, obviously.

The pitcher who had the best night?

Colby Lewis, obviously.

Again.

ALDS: Rangers at Rays
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Somehow, this keeps happening. Somehow, Colby Lewis shows up in these October games and surprises us.

Somehow, he's the one Monday starter who began the night by going nine-up, nine-down, the one Monday starter who allowed only one hit in six innings.

And the one Monday starter now undefeated in five postseason starts, with a 1.67 ERA.

He's also the biggest reason the Rangers are in great position to eliminate the Rays again, after a 4-3 victory in Game 3 that got hairy only after Lewis departed.

When Nolan Ryan said he was a "nervous wreck," he was talking about the last three innings with the famous Rangers bullpen, not the first six with the anonymous Texas starter.

And when Rays manager Joe Maddon was talking about a "dominating" starter, he meant the guy whose best fastball of the night clocked in at 91 mph, not even close to what those other guys were throwing.

"It might say 88-90 on the gun, but he's sneaky," Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "In the on-deck circle, it looks like 88, but when you get up there, it's harder."

Perhaps, but Lewis had a 4.40 ERA this year -- in the regular season. He has a 4.99 career ERA and a 38-38 record -- in the regular season.

The Rangers started him in Game 3, because that's where he fit in their rotation, behind C.J. Wilson and Derek Holland. But of the past seven Rangers postseason wins, four of them belong to Colby Lewis.

He beat the Yankees twice in last year's American League Championship Series -- while everyone was talking about Cliff Lee. He beat the Giants in last year's World Series, when the Rangers lost four games to one.

And he beat the Rays on Monday night.

It's not the longest win streak in postseason history (Orlando Hernandez and Orel Hershiser each won seven straight). But it might be the most unexpected, and the most anonymous.

It might be the hardest to explain, in part because you're not going to get much explanatory help from Lewis. He's a nice guy with a great story -- he spent two years in Japan figuring things out, before signing with the Rangers before last season -- but he's not exactly quotable.

"I think it's just October, it's either win or go home," he said Monday. "So you kind of go out there with the mentality of just blow your lid, and that's what I tried to tell myself."

You want more? Sorry, you're not going to get it.

That's fine. He's paid to pitch, not to explain what he's doing and fill our notebooks.

He's paid to do what he did Monday, when Desmond Jennings' leadoff home run in the fourth and a B.J. Upton walk that followed were the only blots on an otherwise perfect six innings.

It got messy later, especially when Mike Adams walked the bases loaded in the eighth, after giving up another Jennings home run that made it a one-run game. The Rangers needed a Mike Gonzalez strikeout of Johnny Damon and a Neftali Feliz strikeout of Ben Zobrist to get out of it.

"That's as stressful a game as I can remember," Ryan said.

But again, he wasn't talking about the Colby Lewis part of the game.

That was smooth. That was stress-free for the Rangers.

That was basically like those games Lewis pitched against the Yankees, like the game he pitched against the Giants.

"You see it enough, you start to expect it," Rangers bench coach Jackie Moore said. "A lot of people don't expect it, but we do."

Perhaps, but then why doesn't Lewis do better for the six months leading up to October? The Rangers talk about his lack of run support last year, they talk about his 200 innings in back-to-back years, and they talk about how a few really bad games skewed this year's numbers, but the gap between what we see in April through September and what we see in October is still a lot bigger than you would expect.

"You've got people doubting him, but he's one of our big-game starters," Holland said. "He doesn't let stuff get to him. He's definitely a big-game pitcher for us."

Lewis told reporters over the weekend that he treats the postseason starts like all his other starts. That would be a fine explanation for his success, if he pitched anything like this in the regular season.

He doesn't, or at least he hasn't.

It's in October that he turns unhittable. It's in October that he wins every time he takes the mound.

Maybe that means that when it's October, we shouldn't ignore Colby Lewis. But we do.

We always do.

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