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05/09/10 12:50 AM ET
Rangers, Feliz close out win vs. Royals
Closer converts his sixth straight save opportunity
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Neftali Feliz is getting a pretty good idea of what being the Rangers' closer is all about. "I know when they call me in the ninth, I'm the last guy out there," Feliz said. "They're not going to use anybody else and I have to do the job. There are no breaks for mistakes. You have to close it or lose it." Right now he is getting the job done. Feliz, who had some trouble on the last homestand, was successful on his sixth straight save opportunity in closing out the Rangers 3-2 victory over the Royals at the Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday night. Feliz wrapped up a strong night for Rangers relievers, finishing off four scoreless innings behind starter Rich Harden. Ian Kinsler made it a successful night by snapping a 2-2 tie with a two-out, run-scoring single off of Royals starter Gil Meche in the bottom of the eighth. "A great win in a good ballgame," Rangers manager Ron Washington said after his team won for the third straight night over the Royals. The first-place Rangers have also won nine of their last 12 games. Feliz has saved six of those games. He gave up two runs in saving a 6-5 victory over the Tigers on April 28, but has been scoreless in his last five, retiring 14 of 15 hitters he faced. Six of those came on strikeouts. "He's hitting his spots, mixing in his off-speed stuff and getting it over for strikes," Washington said. "He's pounding the strike zone and using a minimal amount of pitches. That's good." Feliz needed 22 pitches to get the save against the White Sox, but has averaged less than 13 pitches per inning in his last five outings. He's given up a few hits this season -- 13 in 152/3 innings -- but just three walks against 18 strikeouts. His last walk was on April 14. "I've been feeling 100 percent," Feliz said. "I've just been coming in and attacking hitters and getting ahead of hitters." Feliz followed Dustin Nippert, Darren Oliver and Chris Ray to the mound. Two nights ago the Rangers bullpen suffered its worst night of the season, allowing eight runs in four innings. But, buffered by C.J. Wilson's complete game on Friday, they were up to the task of matching Meche once Harden was done after five innings. "The other night ... you've got to let it go," Oliver said. "That's going to happen sometimes when you play 162 games. You're going to have games like that." Harden went five innings, allowing two runs on six hits, two walks and three strikeouts. He threw 95 pitches but 32 of them came in the fifth inning and that brought his night to a close. Washington said he would take two runs from Harden every time out. But that hardly mollified Harden in his reaction to his outing. "I'm not happy with my performance," Harden said. "I wanted to go deep in the game, but I threw too many pitches, especially in that last inning. I didn't have a good put-away pitch with my off-speed stuff. "But the bullpen did a great job and we got a win. That's what matters." The Royals didn't lack for baserunners. Rangers pitchers allowed 10 hits and three walks and had somebody on base in every inning. But they held the Royals to one hit in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position. "We blew three leads the other night and the offense picked us up," Ray said. "Tonight we faced a tough pitcher, so the guys came in and did the job we're supposed to do and we came away with a victory." Nippert, with the game 2-2, had a runner on third with one out. But shortstop Elvis Andrus, with the infield in, knocked down Yuniesky Betancourt's line drive and threw to first for the out while holding the runner at third. Nippert struck out Chris Getz to end the inning. Oliver gave up singles to David DeJesus and Scott Podsednik to start the seventh, but got Billy Butler to hit into a double play and Jose Guillen on a bouncer back to the mound. Ray, getting his first victory with the Rangers, pitched a scoreless eighth despite allowing a walk. That left it for Feliz. Pinch-hitter Mike Aviles singled, but DeJesus hit into a double play and Podsednik flied out to end the inning. Fourteen pitches. Twelve fastballs, one slider, one changeup. Fastball velocity ranged from 94-98 miles per hour. Game over. "That's what you have to do," Feliz said. "Come in and take care of business." The Rangers closer has been all business as of late.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.