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TB@TEX: Feldman holds Rays scoreless over six frames

ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman was beaming in the clubhouse afterwards. After almost two years of struggling and coming back from right knee surgery, he felt like a useful member of the ballclub again.

"That's the main thing, it just feels good to contribute again," Feldman said after the Rangers' 2-0 victory over the Rays on Tuesday night. "It's been awhile since I contributed. It's a little better feeling. I feel like I did what I was supposed to do. It was discouraging the way things went last year and being hurt. It's a good feeling to go out and contribute."

Feldman did just that on a spot start that allowed the Rangers to skip Matt Harrison and give him some extra rest late in the season. Manager Ron Washington said Feldman is still going back to the bullpen when he has recovered from this start and Harrison is still scheduled to start Sunday against the Red Sox.

But that didn't lessen the importance of what Feldman did for the Rangers on Tuesday night at the Ballpark in Arlington.

"He was outstanding," Washington said. "We certainly needed that. He had good movement on his pitches and kept the ball down in the zone. Feldman is the most rested pitcher we have. If there is an opportunity for us to need another starter again, he'll be the guy."

Feldman is well-rested because of his two-year odyssey. He went from 17 wins in 2009 to 7-11 with a 5.48 ERA last season. He was not on the postseason roster, he had knee surgery at the beginning of November and spent the first half of this season still recovering from that.

He wasn't activated off the disabled list until after the All-Star break and has been the Rangers' sparsely used long reliever before finally being called upon as a starter on Tuesday night.

Feldman ended up going six innings and was the first of five pitchers to combine on the Rangers' 16th shutout of the season. That's the most in the American League and one short of the club record set in 1977.

"I'm sure he's fired up," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "That was great to see. He has been through a lot -- a lot of ups and downs -- and I know he's excited about it. He knows he's a starter."

"Feldman was awesome," third baseman Michael Young said. "He was the story of the night. I'm happy for Felly, I'm happy to get him back out there. It's always fun to play defense behind him, and he was rolling right out of the shoot."

The Rangers were hoping for 80-90 pitches from Feldman. He ended up throwing 88 and gave them six quick innings. He allowed two hits and a walk while another baserunner reached on a fielder's choice.

Feldman struck out four and catcher Yorvit Torrealba threw out two trying to steal second. Eleven outs were recorded on ground balls and the only popup came when Johnny Damon hit a weak one to shortstop Elvis Andrus to end the sixth.

"He's a sinker, cutter type of guy," Rays outfielder B.J. Upton said. "That's what he does. Not really much you can do about it. He kept the ball down, he didn't elevate much and that's what you're going to get with that type of guy."

Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson was just as good for five innings. Then he ran into Josh Hamilton into the sixth. Hamilton started the inning by smashing a first-pitch fastball into the upper deck of the Home Run Porch in right field. His 19th home run of the season was measured at 449 feet.

"Right down the middle," Hellickson said. "Right where he likes it. I missed by a couple of feet."

"I thought it was be the first time someone hit a ball on the roof," Feldman said. "He's a beast."

The Rangers were able to add another run that inning. Young followed with a double into the right-field corner, went to third on Mike Napoli's single to left and scored on David Murphy's single.

That put Feldman in position to win, and Washington immediately started the parade of relievers. Mark Lowe and Darren Oliver combined to pitch a scoreless seventh, Mike Adams worked the eighth and Neftali Feliz closed out the ninth for his 26th save.

"Feldman gave us what we needed," Washington said. "The rest was up to the bullpen."

Feliz didn't make it easy. Pinch-hitter Sam Fuld led off with a single and Desmond Jennings popped out. Damon hit a high pop into short right. Kinsler dropped it trying to make a basket catch with his back to the plate, but he recovered quickly and got the force at second base. That left runners on the corners for Evan Longoria.

Feliz threw four straight fastballs at 99-100 mph to get ahead 1-2 in the count, then broke off a beautiful slider low and away that Longoria hit right at Kinsler for a game-ending double play.

"I have been throwing the slider a lot more lately and I have a lot more confidence in it," Feliz said. "The more confidence you have, the more comfortable you are using it."

That allowed the Rangers to walk off the field and celebrate. Feldman had more to celebrate than anybody.

"I'm happy for him," Feliz said. "He's a good teammate and we missed him. He did a great job tonight."

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