It's already been a productive postseason for Colby Lewis. Next up, a shot at the biggest prize yet.
In Game 6 of the World Series on Wednesday night, Lewis gets the first chance to pitch the Texas Rangers to their first title. No doubt while pitching oh-so-carefully against Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals, he'll be leaning on past October triumphs.
"Well, you definitely think when you're a kid, you want to be in this position, be on this stage," Lewis said. "I think just being in the situation that we were last year throughout the playoffs gives you more of an edge, more relaxation. That's for sure."
Jaime Garcia is back home where he's most comfortable, and the wild-card Cardinals are back in a familiar win-or-go-home mode, heading into a mound rematch from Game 2.
Three of Garcia's four postseason starts have been at Busch Stadium and the 25-year-old lefty has a 1.93 ERA at home. He outpitched Lewis in the first matchup with seven innings of scoreless, three-hit ball before the bullpen failed in a 2-1 loss.
Garcia was in top form in Game 2 with seven strikeouts and one walk.
"It's been the same for me the last two months basically, and I'm still going to try to do the same thing. Don't change anything, don't try to do too much because this is the World Series. That's kind of how I feel," he said.
Lewis beat the New York Yankees in the clinching Game 6 in the AL championship series last year. He doesn't mind being on the road, getting nine of his 14 wins with a 3.43 ERA, and has been stingy all postseason with a 2.95 ERA.
Facing Lewis in Game 2, the Cardinals were limited to one run on four hits with one extra-base hit in 6 1-3 innings. Manager Ron Washington expects to see the same pitcher again, and is confident there'll be zero stage fright.
"He totally believes in what he's trying to do out there," Washington said. "He never gets away from what he does best. Colby never doubts what he's capable of doing, and I think that's what makes him apart from some guys at this stage."
Garcia had plenty of must-win starts in September, steeling him for the postseason. The Cardinals overtook the faltering Braves on the final day of the season and Garcia was a key contributor, going 3-0 the final month.
He doesn't plan on changing much from his Game 2 start.
"It doesn't matter which team, which lineup, what part of the season it is," Garcia said. "It's just going out there and worrying about the little things that you can control."
The bigger question in La Russa's mind is what to expect from the lineup. The Cardinals were 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position in their 4-2 loss in Game 5 loss Monday night at Texas.
"Our confidence is very good that he's going to pitch well," manager Tony La Russa said. "And we're challenging our bats to do more."
La Russa twice declined discussing a potential Game 7 starter, although ace Chris Carpenter volunteered for duty on two days' rest. Carpenter, who allowed two runs in seven innings in Game 5, played catch Tuesday and said he felt fine.
"I think everybody's available for the rest of the year, don't you?" Carpenter said to reporters. "Whatever (La Russa) needs."
Kyle Lohse would be on regular rest but has struggled in the postseason. Edwin Jackson allowed three runs in 5 1-3 innings, throwing 109 pitches in Game 3. Fifth starter Jake Westbrook is a fringe option, having worked just one inning in the postseason.
"There isn't any part of me that doesn't want to have a Game 7," La Russa said. "But every other part of me says let's think about Game 6 first."
Matt Harrison, who lasted just 3 2-3 innings in the Cardinals' 16-7 blowout in Game 3, would be on turn to start Game 7 for the Rangers.
"We have two games to do it, we've got to play .500 ball," Lewis said. "But we definitely want to get it done as soon as possible, that's for sure."
Washington said he's tired of getting asked about pitchers being fatigued. Though the Rangers have two games to do it, there'll be no holding back.
"Every single person that's still playing baseball right now is tired," Washington said. "So that's no excuse."