Colby Lewis looked the part of an Opening Day starter Friday, striking out nine in six innings of two-run ball against the White Sox. The key for Lewis was his command of the outer third of the plate and outside corner against righties, who were generally baffled by his fastballslider combination.
Of Lewis' 100 pitches, 78 registered as either a fastball or slider. And he absolutely pounded the outer third with those offerings:
Graph via Brooks Baseball.
Lewis hardly has overpowering stuff, and his slider was, on average, only six miles per hour slower than his fastball. But Lewis lived on the outside corner, as the graph shows, and when he missed, he missed away against right-handers. He only went inside a few times, and when he did, he was pretty effective with it.
It's easier said than done to attack a pitcher like this, since Lewis made it incredibly difficult to differentiate between his fastball and slider out of his hand. And he rarely missed over the plate -- but when he did, the Sox were so off-balance by his pounding of the outer third that they didn't always take advantage of it.
One key sequence
Dayan Viciedo led off the third with a double, representing one of those precious few times a Sox righty took advantage of a bad offering from Lewis. But Lewis turned the tables on Gordon Beckham, busting the second baseman inside when it was clear he was looking to push the ball to the right side to advance Viciedo. As a result, Beckham took three straight strikes and went down looking.
Alejandro De Aza followed that up with his worst at-bat of the game, ending in a strikeout on a low-and-inside breaking ball. And then Lewis went to work on Brent Morel, who looked completely lost against the Rangers starter -- four straight sliders and back-to-back fastballs finished off Morel and the first White Sox scoring threat of the season.