Gil LeBreton

For Lewis, his day in the MLB spotlight was still perfect

Texas Rangers right fielder Nomar Mazara cannot make the catch on a ball hit by Oakland Athletics' Max Muncy in the ninth inning Thursday in Oakland, Calif. The play broke up a no hitter for Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Texas Rangers right fielder Nomar Mazara cannot make the catch on a ball hit by Oakland Athletics' Max Muncy in the ninth inning Thursday in Oakland, Calif. The play broke up a no hitter for Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) AP

It took the man himself, Colby Lewis, the Texas Rangers’ pitcher of few words, to utter the perfect ones to describe what happened Thursday afternoon.

"Ah, it sucks," Lewis told John Rhadigan on FOX Sports Southwest , after his bid for a no-hitter fell two outs short in Oakland.

"You never know when that kinda stuff is gonna come up. It was a lotta fun."

Lewis held the Oakland Athletics hitless until one out in the ninth inning, when rookie right fielder Nomar Mazara was unable to hold onto Max Muncy’s long fly ball at the wall.

The official scorer immediately – and correctly – ruled it a double. Mazara had to sprint a notable distance just to catch up to the ball. He got his glove on it for an instant, but the ball came free when Mazara braced himself to hit the wall.

Once upon a time, before nearly every game was televised, baseball’s unwritten rules used to prod official scorers into nudging along no-hitters in progress. Hits had to be "clean" hits. Errors were unwelcomed.

A couple of decades ago, it’s possible that both Muncy’s long fly and Coco Crisp’s line drive, which left fielder Ryan Rua got a glove on only to have it fall free, would have been officially scored errors, not hits.

But hits should be scored as hits, whether they’re in the first inning or the last. Mazara and Rua had to sprint just to reach their two balls.

Lewis finished with a complete game two-hitter and with his usual understated perspective intact. He certainly wasn’t blaming Mazara.

"They played really well behind me," he said on TV. "I put a lot of balls in play, and they played great defense behind me.

"So, yeah. I dunno."

Lewis retired the first 23 Athletics in order before walking Yonder Alonso with two outs in the eighth.

"Oh, you know," Lewis said, when Rhadigan asked him if he realized he was working on a perfect game. "You know the first time through the lineup. You know going into the fourth inning that you haven’t walked a guy."

It marked another chapter into Lewis’ ongoing comeback story, a little-told tale of resurrecting his major league pitching career in Hiroshima, Japan, followed by sporadic injuries that would have discouraged most 30-year-olds.

While recovering from right flexor tendon surgery in 2012, Lewis was forced to address an ongoing hip problem that doctors had diagnosed. Rather than undergo a likely career-ending hip replacement, Lewis opted to undergo an innovative procedure that resurfaced part of his hip with a mushroom-like metallic socket.

Dr. Edwin Su of New York had identified Lewis, an active, still-young athlete, as an ideal candidate for the surgery.

Lewis returned to make 33 starts and win 17 games a year ago. But his latest round of success, he says, has to be attributed to his newfound devotion to cycling. He’s both lost weight and increased his leg strength – two essential traits for pitchers.

"Yeah, it’s been a little rebirth with the cycling," Lewis said. "I’m just kinda riding the wave right now."

Lewis raised his won-loss record to 6-0 and he remains in the American League’s top 10 in quality starts, fewest walks per nine innings, WHIP and earned run average.

He missed his chance at perfection Thursday, but his afternoon in Oakland was far from wasted.

For a few hours, Colby Lewis had the Major League Baseball spotlight all too himself.

At age 36, Lewis was able to remind the baseball world that he is still here, still pitching, still winning.

Which is sort of perfect in its own way, no matter how you score it.

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