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Friday, September 20, 2013
Rangers turn to Feliz and lose 2-1

By Todd Wills

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Texas Rangers found themselves in a bullpen dilemma on Friday night in a tie game against the Kansas City Royals.

Out of choice options, they went to one-time closer Neftali Feliz, who threw four pitches -- all balls -- with the bases loaded to force in the go-ahead run. The Rangers were left to deal with a 2-1 loss to the Royals that further tightened the American League wild-card race.

How it came down to Feliz is an interesting story.

Manager Ron Washington was asked before the game if Feliz was ready to close a game if other options -- Joe Nathan, Tanner Scheppers, Neal Cotts and Joakim Soria, in particular -- were unavailable because of a heavy workload.

It led to a healthy debate among the manager and his inquisitors and yielded an answer that could only truly be made after seeing Feliz in a pressure situation. After all, he had pitched in only five games after missing 13 months recovering from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

Well, that pressure moment, with more than 30,000 Royals fans on their feet, ended up happening seven hours later.

Jason Frasor
Jason Frasor's eighth-inning jam begat Neftali Feliz's letdown and a crushing Rangers loss.
Jason Frasor, who has had a brilliant season, actually started the bottom of the eighth on the mound for the Rangers. He got two quick outs and looked like he was headed to a 1-2-3 inning.

Then, Lorenzo Cain battled him for a single up the middle, and Mike Moustakas blooped a single over shortstop Elvis Andrus' glove into left field for a single to move Cain to third. Frasor ended up walking the bases loaded after getting ahead of pinch hitter David Lough with a 1-2 count but failing to put him away.

With the bags full and Frasor at 26 pitches, Washington needed another option out of the bullpen.

He wasn't going to Scheppers -- who had pitched in three straight games -- unless it was absolutely necessary, e.g., extra innings. Or Soria, who had pitched in back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday. Cotts had already done his work, getting four outs.

Scheppers had told pitching coach Mike Maddux he could go if needed after throwing 28 pitches in his three consecutive appearances, which meant extra innings if necessary.

"If we had to use him [we would have]," Washington said. "Other than that, I can't hurt the kid."

So Washington decided on Feliz, a highly risky move just because -- again -- he hasn't pitched much. And Feliz showed the rust, guiding four pitches up to the plate, none of them close to the strike zone.

"I was frustrated that I wasn't able to locate the ball," Feliz said. "I understand that's part of the game. I'll keep my head up and try tomorrow."

Frasor could only watch. He was so close to getting out of the inning a couple of times -- at first, it looked like Andrus would catch Moustakas' flare, and Frasor made Lough look bad early in the count -- but it didn't come out in his favor.

"It stinks when you to have to be taken out for someone else," Frasor said. "That's a tough spot for Nefti."

Yes, it was.