Commentary

Neftail Feliz left speechless after Game 6

Rangers closer has nothing to say after coming within one strike of clinching Series

Updated: October 28, 2011, 3:49 AM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

ST. LOUIS -- Texas Rangers closer Neftali Feliz didn't want to speak to anyone after coming within one strike of a championship only to see it slip away.

Feliz was the first Rangers pitcher to come within a strike of the title. Scott Feldman was the second.

But while Feldman stood in the clubhouse and explained what happened and appeared to begin the process of moving on, Feliz made the long walk through the cavernous field level at Busch Stadium to the team bus.

[+] Enlarge Neftali Feliz
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesNeftali Feliz walks off the mound after letting the Cardinals score two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie Game 6.

With iPad in hand, Feliz just shook his head as he walked the winding path. A couple of members of the Rangers' front office patted him on the back, but Feliz didn't really react. He didn't stay to speak to reporters.

Perhaps he didn't know what to say after the St. Louis Cardinals won 10-9 in 11 innings to force a Game 7 of the World Series.

The young closer entered Game 6 on Thursday with a two-run lead in the ninth inning. It was exactly what the Rangers wanted.

They had taken the lead with a three-run seventh inning that included back-to-back homers by Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz. The Cardinals got one back, but Feliz came in with a two-run cushion and the World Series hanging in the balance.

He struck out Ryan Theriot to start the inning but gave up a double to Albert Pujols and a walk to Lance Berkman. Feliz then struck out Allen Craig with an impressive slider that the slugger didn't even try to swing at.

David Freese stood at home plate with two on and two outs and quickly fell behind 1-2. Feliz fired a 98-mph fastball and Freese pounded it to right field. It appeared that Cruz had a bead on it.

"I thought Cruz was going to catch it," manager Ron Washington said.

But he didn't. The ball tailed away and over his glove, hitting the wall. Freese wound up standing at third base, and the Cardinals had tied it.

"It was command issues, I guess," Washington said. "Freese looked bad on two pitches but then got one out over the plate, and that strong dude hit it."

Feliz got Yadier Molina to line out to strand Freese at third, sending the game to extra innings. But the inning revived the Cardinals. They ended up coming back from another two-run deficit an inning later before Freese -- yes, that guy again -- won the game with a walk-off home run to straightaway center off reliever Mark Lowe.

Feliz's 2011 season has been up and down. He started off pitching well before inflammation in his right shoulder landed him on the disabled list. Feliz struggled in June and July, blowing some saves and showing inconsistency.

He regained his form in August and in the stretch run looked more like the closer who won the 2010 AL Rookie of the Year Award, though he got just seven save chances in the team's final 36 games starting in late August.

This postseason, Feliz has managed to pitch into but then out of some minor jams. Coming into Game 6, Feliz had a 0.87 ERA in 10 playoff games, but he had walked seven and struck out 10 in 10 1/3 innings. His lone run allowed had been in a save against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series.

"It's baseball. You can't be perfect every time," reliever Darren Oliver said. "He had a hiccup in Game 6 of the World Series. It's a tough time to have one, but it happens. I'm sure if we're in the same situation tomorrow night, he's going to be in there again. And we have all the faith in the world that he's going to get the job done."

Washington said he didn't think Feliz looked rattled after it happened.

"He never looks like he's concerned to me out there," Washington said. "Even when he's in trouble, he doesn't look concerned. He just didn't get it done."

So if the situation comes up in Game 7, will Feliz be back on the mound?

"If we go into the ninth inning with the lead, you're darn right he is," Washington said.

And the manager and his team believe Feliz will lock it down if given another opportunity.

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.

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