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Must C Crushed: Cruz blasts another tape measure shot

ARLINGTON -- Rangers closer Neftali Feliz threw 35 pitches on Tuesday night and pitching coach Mike Maddux asked him on Wednesday afternoon how he felt. Feliz said he felt fine and was ready to pitch.

Feliz didn't back off that position after giving up four runs in the ninth inning and suffering his fourth blown save of the season in a 5-3 loss to the Astros at the Ballpark in Arlington. Pinch-hitter Matt Downs delivered the decisive blow with a two-run home run.

"I felt good," Feliz said. "My arm was OK. I didn't feel there was anything wrong with my arm."

Feliz hasn't had any trouble pitching back-to-back games this season. In his five previous outings pitching on no rest, Feliz did not allow a run.

"We had the right guy in the right spot," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We're not going to make any excuses. We didn't get it done."

The Rangers still took two of three from the Astros and have the edge in the Silver Boot competition going into the three-game series next week in Houston. But, of far greater consequence, they missed a chance to add a game to their lead in the American League West and remain two games ahead of the Mariners.

Feliz was trying to save it for Rangers starter Colby Lewis, who pitched seven scoreless innings before being forced to leave the game with stiffness in his neck. He allowed three hits and one walk while striking out eight. He threw 103 pitches.

"It's got a little spasm," Lewis said. "It got tight after the fifth and then spasmed up there in the sixth. We worked on it a little bit and it got me through the seventh. Other than that, everything was good. At most, maybe they probably let me go one more if that. Still, 103, it's still debatable if I go out for the eighth."

Lewis left with a 2-0 lead. David Bush, who is normally a long/middle reliever, took over in the eighth and the Astros were able to scratch one run off him. That left the ninth and Feliz. Right-handed setup relievers Mark Lowe and Yoshinori Tateyama had pitched in the first two games of the series and were unavailable, but Washington was not looking at other options.

"There were no other options," Washington said. "Feliz was the option."

The Rangers missed a chance to get him a bigger cushion against reliever Mark Melancon. A one-out double by Michael Young scored one run and left runners on second and third. But Josh Hamilton, the runner at third with the infield in, didn't score on Nelson Cruz's high chopper to second baseman Jeff Keppinger and, after Mitch Moreland was intentionally walked, Yorvit Torrealba grounded out to end the inning.

The Rangers still led, 3-1, going into the ninth when Carlos Lee led off with a double over the third-base bag. Brett Wallace popped out, but Chris Johnson doubled into the left-field corner to make it 3-2.

Jason Michaels followed with a grounder up the middle that shortstop Andres Blanco was able to knock down, keeping runners at the corners. But, with Downs at the plate as a pinch-hitter, catcher Torrealba let a pitch get away from him for a passed ball and the tying run scored.

Downs, getting ahead 3-1 in the count, then turned on a 96 mile-per-hour fastball and hit his two-run home run into the left-field seats to give the Astros the lead.

"When you get 3-1, you're looking for a fastball obviously," Downs said. "A guy like that throwing as hard as he is, you've just got to get ready and get it out there early.

"I'm sure his arm wasn't as live as it would have been on a fresh night because he threw 40 pitches last night. We were actually surprised to see him in there. We figured we'd see somebody else, but thank goodness we did."

The four runs tied a career high for Feliz, going back to the grand slam given up to Corey Patterson on July 9, 2010.

"The result wasn't what I wanted, but I felt good," Feliz said. "I was throwing my pitches, I just didn't have a good result." Comments