BALTIMORE – Colby Lewis didn't think much about history as he stood in a hallway beneath Camden Yards on Wednesday evening. Someone told him he was famous now, alone in baseball's record books as the lone known pitcher to have given up five home runs and struck out more than 10 batters in the same game.
The Texas Rangers pitcher shook his head.
Such subtle beauty of a start as awful as it was brilliant seemed lost on a man who remained perplexed by a game he had just lost 6-5 to the Baltimore Orioles.
"That was just a weird game, man," he said. "I don't know to justify that game."
Probably Lewis should have known something unusual was going to happen. He felt good in his pregame warmup. Too good. Every pitch was perfect. His fastball sizzled. His slider skipped just the way it should. When he picked a spot he wanted the ball to go, it went there every time. Then he walked to the mound in the first game of this late-afternoon doubleheader.
The first Orioles batter, Ryan Flaherty, crushed Lewis's second pitch over the right-center field fence for a home run. The next hitter, J.J. Hardy, hit Lewis's fifth pitch into the left field seats for another home run. Then on the eighth pitch – CRACK – the third batter, Nick Markakis, drove a ball down the right-field line that clanked against the foul pole.
Three batters. Three home runs.
The fourth hitter, Adam Jones, hit a long fly ball to center field that took Rangers center fielder Craig Gentry almost to the fence before he caught it, leaving the Orioles just a few feet from four home runs to start a game.
"That happens," Lewis later said with a shrug. "After that you just keep making pitches."
Then came the strikeouts. Matt Wieters and Wilson Betemit to end the first. Chris Davis, Mark Reynolds and Robert Andino in the second. Flaherty in the third.
Three home runs in a row followed by six strikeouts in a row. Suddenly Lewis could do no wrong. The man who looked shell-shocked at the start of the game rolled through the Baltimore lineup in the fourth, fifth and sixth. Eighteen in a row he retired. This was the game he expected to pitch.
Until the seventh. First came Jones, who crushed the second pitch of the inning into the left-field bleachers for the home run he missed in the first. After a walk to Wieters, Betemit smashed a home run to right field for Baltimore's fifth and sixth runs. And it gave Lewis a very strange statistical line for the day …
Six innings, five hits – all home runs – and 12 strikeouts.
Rangers Manager Ron Washington was asked if he had ever seen such extremes in a pitching performance.
"No," he said bluntly. "But he kept us in the ballgame."
Then he added:
"After the first inning, you didn't know what to expect."
Lewis, for his part, was baffled to come up with an explanation. More than the five home runs and the 12 strikeouts – both career highs – he was amazed by the fact that all five hits were home runs. He figured one would have maybe been a double or a single. Not all home runs. Then he shrugged again, crossed his arms and laughed.
"I feel great," he said.
"I feel like I didn't even pitch," he added, despite the fact he actually threw 114 pitches. "I felt like I had some of my best stuff."
Then he shrugged again because he didn't know what to say.
Ironically, the only other pitcher since such records were kept in 1918 to give up five hits that were all home runs in a start of seven innings or longer was another Ranger – Charlie Hough – who allowed them in a 1989 game against Cleveland.
Only two other teams – those 1989 Indians and the 2004 Yankees – have had all five of their hits in a game be home runs.
All that history appealed neither to Lewis, who shook his head in bemusement, or Washington, who was more impressed that one of the most extreme starts in baseball history was nearly overcome by a late-game Rangers' rally.
"He kept us in the game," Washington kept saying over and over.
Then later as the reporters filed out of his office as Texas prepared to take the field for the second game of the doubleheader, Washington called out the door: "Sorry I can't help you about history better."
Then he added.
"He kept us in the game."
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