Rangers top A's for fourth straight win
Feldman, bullpen combine for team's third straight shutout
ARLINGTON -- This goes back years and years ago, beyond the division championship seasons, beyond Nolan Ryan, Kevin Brown and Charlie Hough and beyond the era that started circa 1987, when the Rangers first began developing an only-sometimes-accurate reputation of being all offense and no pitching.This goes back to a season with a starting rotation of Doc Medich, Danny Darwin, Rick Honeycutt, and of course, Ferguson Jenkins, the one guy who long ago set the standard for all Rangers pitchers. The Rangers haven't seen anything like this since 1981: they have now delivered three straight shutouts and a streak of 31 consecutive scoreless innings. The Rangers' pitching machine did it again Friday night, as Scott Feldman, Jamey Wright, Joaquin Benoit and C.J. Wilson did the honors, holding the Athletics to just four hits in a 4-0 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "We're good," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said after catching his second shutout in three nights. "We've got good pitching. Everyone is just in a groove right now." This is only the second time in Rangers history that they have thrown three consecutive shutouts. Medich, Darwin, Honeycutt and Jenkins were the starters when the Rangers pitched four consecutive shutouts on Apr. 27-30, 1981, producing a club-record 39 consecutive scoreless innings. The current Rangers are just eight innings away from that mark, although they have also allowed just one run in their last 41 innings in putting together a four-game winning streak. "They're certainly capable of this," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "You have to give (pitching coach) Mark Connor and [bullpen coach] Dom Chiti a whole lot of credit for hanging in there and working with these guys, getting them to pound the strike zone and getting it done." It hasn't been easy. This is the same pitching staff that had a 10.17 ERA during a seven game losing streak April 18-24 while on a roadtrip to Boston and Detroit. That included the night they gave up 19 runs and spent an hour after the game trying to figure out who would pitch the next day. At 11:30 that night, Jason Jennings was told he would be the guy. Since the debacle in Detroit, however, Rangers pitchers have combined for a 3.24 ERA and have won 10 of 14. Their starters are 8-3 with a 3.46 ERA and the bullpen has a 2.84 ERA. Beyond what the staff has done, Rangers relievers have their own 27-inning scoreless streak over their last nine games. "When guys are pitching well, you want to come in and keep it going," Wright said. "That's what we're doing. When you hear that phone ring in the bullpen, you're out there hoping they want you. You want to be in there. It has been a lot of fun the past few days." Feldman, who did not allow a hit until the fifth, was good, but put the scoreless streak in jeopardy in the second and third innings by twice walking two of the first three batters. Both times he was able to extricate himself from trouble as Rangers pitchers held the Athletics to 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. "I thought I had pretty good stuff, but my command was shaky in the second and third inning," Feldman said. "I struggled to find my release point and I was pulling off my pitches. After that I just went out and got ground balls." Feldman earned his first victory in three Major League starts. All three starts, including two against Oakland, have been quality starts and he now has a 2.89 ERA as a starter. "The thing that's been tough against him the last two times is he has a lot of late life on his fastball," Oakland designated hitter Jack Cust said. "He throws both his [cut fastball] and his sinker at the same speed, and he throws on both sides of the plate really well." Brandon Boggs provided most of the offense against Athletics starter and losing pitcher Greg Smith, hitting his second home run of the season in the second inning and adding a two-run double off him in the sixth. Boggs almost didn't it to the plate, having almost badly injured himself while chasing Daric Barton's high fly ball into foul territory in the left-field corner in the first inning. He didn't make the catch, but instead went tumbling and crashing into the wall, banging his knee against a strip of concrete between the dirt track and the protective padding. It looked scary, but Boggs stayed in the game. "That was probably one of the hardest crashes I've ever had," Boggs said. "I'm not afraid of running into a wall. Luckily I wasn't hurt. It's a little sore, but I can run, and as long as I can run, I can play." One inning later, he was jogging around the bases after hitting a home run off Smith, a rather impressive display of toughness. "He did show some toughness running into that corner," Washington said. "But everybody in that clubhouse has shown some toughness." Perhaps so, and it is the pitching staff that is leading the way.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.