Colby Lewis takes the mound for the Texas Rangers today, in Toronto, facing the Blue Jays in an ALDS Game Three that will be the final playoff game for the Rangers this season if they don’t win.
Colby has a strong postseason track record, and you know the pressure won’t get to him...but he also spent two and a half months on the disabled list, and was just okay in his four starts after being activated from the d.l.
Meanwhile, with yesterday’s off day, Jeff Banister has a full bullpen available to him. That reportedly includes Martin Perez, who will be in the pen today, as the Rangers are apparently prepared (and perhaps planning) to use Cole Hamels on short rest if there’s a Game Four tomorrow.
Given that, I have to believe the leash for Colby will be very short. What we’ve seen historically with Colby is that if his slider is sharp and he’s commanding his fastball, he’s good, and if he isn’t, he’s extremely hittable. My guess is that, if the command isn’t there early on, we will see action in the bullpen right away, and Colby won’t get the opportunity to work through early issues. If the Jays are hitting him hard early on, I expect Banister to go to the pen quick.
The Rangers do have the advantage of having a strong, deep bullpen that Banister can utilize. Aside from Perez, there’s also Alex Claudio and Tony Barnette who Banister can ask to pitch multiple innings. Matt Bush has also gone two innings at a time for the Rangers. Banister said this was an “all hands on deck” game, and the Rangers have quality relief arms they can turn to if Colby is pulled in the first couple of innings to get to the late inning options.
Hopefully it won’t come to that -- I’m crossing my fingers we see the sharp, effective Colby we’ve seen in playoff outings past. But if Colby isn’t right early on, I think we will see this turn into a bullpen game quick.