Rapid Reaction: Rangers 1, Mariners 0
April, 10, 2012
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Neftali Feliz put together an impressive first start in the majors, going seven shutout innings, and the bullpen made a 1-0 lead hold up. Texas got its only run in the second on a David Murphy single in the second. Some thoughts:
What it means: The Rangers move to 4-1 and have guaranteed that, at worst, they'll split this four-game series with Seattle. They gained a half-game on the Angels, who were idle after playing Minnesota in the Twins' home opener Monday. It also means that the first time through the rotation sure was a good one. The club's only loss the first time through was a late-inning defeat to Chicago on Saturday. That includes two shutouts in the first five games.
Great outing: Feliz pitched seven shutout innings in his first big league start. He walked two of the first three batters he faced, but then never issued another free pass in the game. Feliz didn't give up a hit until the fourth and the Mariners only got a runner into scoring position in two innings. He's the third pitcher in Rangers history to go seven shutout innings in his starting debut.
Secondary stuff: The big question with Feliz was his off-speed and breaking pitches. And the changeup and slider were on target Tuesday. He had four strikeouts -- two of them on sliders and two of them on changeups. Feliz appeared to go more with the changeup and slider the second and third time through the lineup. Mike Napoli called a great game. More on Feliz coming up on the blog.
Longest outing: The seven-inning start was the longest for Feliz as a professional. He started 53 times in the minors, but his longest outing was 6 2/3 innings on April 5, 2008 for Class A Clinton.
Tough guy: Napoli was hit in the head by a Blake Beavan 92-mph fastball in the seventh and went down to the ground. But he stood up and stayed in the game. Thank goodness for batting helmets.
No-hit streak: The Mariners were 0-for-58 against Feliz all-time until Justin Smoak's single up the middle in the fourth. That's 19 1/3 innings of hitless baseball. Wow.
Double play: Feliz walked two of the first three batters he faced but got the ground ball he needed off the bat of Justin Smoak, who grounded into the 4-6-3 twin killing. That ended the inning and saved Feliz on the pitch count.
Dirt ball: The Rangers get aggressive on balls in the dirt as usual with Michael Young taking third on a wild pitch with two outs in the second. He scored on Murphy's infield single to give the Rangers the lead. Young hit a ground ball to the pitcher and Adrian Beltre was caught in a rundown between second and third, but stayed in it long enough for Young to get to second. All of those little things helped add up to a run.
Defense: It's worth highlighting a couple of defensive plays by the Mariners. Chone Figgins made a nice running catch with his back to the plate in the third. Later that same inning, shortstop Munenori Kawasaki gloved a throw from catcher Miguel Olivo that bounced right before getting to second. Kawasaki was still able to quickly apply the tag to get Ian Kinsler trying to steal second. ...The Rangers had their share of nice plays, too. Beltre made a basket catch at home plate on a popup in the fifth and Josh Hamilton, who is making good catches a nightly routine so far in 2012, slid to his left and made a catch in right-center to end the fifth.
Napoli trying to find stroke: Napoli continues to call great games behind the plate, but his bat hasn't quite come around yet in 2012. He came to the plate in the fifth with a runner at third and one out. The Mariners brought the infield in against Napoli, who was one of the best hitters in the league last year with runners in scoring position. But he got behind 0-2 and hit a soft liner to first. The Rangers weren't able to get the run home.
Murphy stays hot: Murphy was 5-for-12 (.417) coming into the game and was 3-for-3 with two doubles and the only RBI. He's looking very comfortable at the plate early this season as he gets a chance to play every day.
Bullpen does job: Mike Adams pitched a scoreless eighth and closer Joe Nathan came out firing strikes. He touched 94 mph and struck out Smoak on a nasty slider. Both pitchers got every batter they faced out.