DETROIT -- Despite Neftali Feliz's complete game, the Rangers weren't able to overcome a three-run fourth inning as Justin Verlander and the Tigers' bullpen did enough to hold the red-hot Rangers to two runs. It was a terrific finish and a close game the whole way. Some quick thoughts:
What it means: The Rangers fall for the first time on the road this season (they are 7-1). It's only the second time in 15 games that the club scored fewer than three runs.
Ninth-inning drama: Detroit closer Jose Valverde had trouble finishing off the Rangers in the ninth. He walked two Rangers but was able to get Elvis Andrus to fly out to left and struck out Josh Hamilton (who had four strikeouts on the night) to end the game.
Complete game: It was the first professional complete game for Feliz, who did a nice job of getting back in a groove after struggling in the fourth (more on that below). He walked Austin Jackson to lead off the fifth and got the bullpen loosening, but then he retired 12 of the next 13 he faced to get through eight innings. He had a career-high six strikeouts and outside of the fourth, allowed just one hit (he gave up two singles, three walks and a hit batter in that fourth inning). Feliz threw a career-high 119 pitches. He probably won't pitch again until Saturday, so he's got time to rest.
Rough fourth: After throwing just 28 pitches in the first three innings (and getting the Tigers in order the first time through the order), Feliz ran into trouble in the fourth. He hit Brennan Boesch with a 95 mph in the elbow and then, with two outs, ran into command issues. Feliz had three walks in the inning, starting with Prince Fielder. He was ahead 0-2 but lost him. The big hit was Ramon Santiago, who singled to left to score two runs and break the tie.
Verlander goes six without best stuff: The Rangers did a good job of battling with Verlander and sending his pitch count up, though the 2011 Cy Young Award winner and MVP was effective. He was at 101 pitches through five innings. That came after he threw 131 in a complete-game win over the Kansas City Royals in his last start. Verlander's best inning was probably his sixth and final one. He froze Young on a 79 mph curve ball, struck out Cruz on a pitch in the dirt (Cruz threw his bat at it) and got Murphy to ground out to second. Verlander pitched well despite not having his best fastball. He allowed one run (unearned) on four hits in six innings with three walks and eight strikeouts.
Nice pickoff move: Verlander picked off Elvis Andrus at first base in the first inning. Verlander stepped off the rubber and looked at Andrus, then got on the rubber and immediately fired to first. It appeared to catch Andrus off-guard just enough to get him. Verlander struck out Josh Hamilton to end the inning.
Tough call: Nelson Cruz's ground ball in the second to shortstop appeared to be a double play. But Brandon Inge didn't touch second base and then Cruz was called out at first. Replays showed that the umpires appeared to go 1-for-2. Inge did not touch the bag, but Cruz looked like he beat the relay throw. When it was all done, Michael Young was at second base with one out but didn't end up scoring.
Great at-bats: David Murphy had a nice night against Verlander. In the fourth, with Michael Young at third base and one out, Murphy 1-2 but stayed away from two changeups to get the count to 3-2 and then hit a 95 mph fastball out to left field. The sacrifice fly scored Young. ... Murphy's first at-bat was a good one too, as he went from 0-2 to a walk in nine pitches. ... In the eighth, Murphy stayed patient behind in the count and then hit a two-strike changeup the other way for an RBI single to right to close the deficit to 3-2.
Big passed ball: The Rangers' run in the fourth was unearned thanks to a passed ball by catcher Alex Avila. That allowed Young to go to second. He went to third on Cruz's fly ball to right and then home on Murphy's fly to left.
Tidbits: Craig Gentry was aggressive with two outs and Kinsler at home plate in the seventh and stole second base despite a good throw by Avila (Octavio Dotel wasn't exactly quick to the plate). ... Former Ranger Joaquin Benoit struggled in the eighth, needing 33 pitches. He gave up one run.