Feldman fills in ably, tops White Sox
Hamilton, Blalock provide Rangers offense with home runs
CHICAGO -- Scott Feldman found out only Sunday that he would be getting the ball to start Monday's series opener against the White Sox.
The right-hander was recalled from Double-A Frisco early Monday afternoon and threw six innings of one-run baseball at U.S. Cellular Field, leading the Rangers to a 6-1 win that moved the team into sole possession of second place in the American League West, passing the A's.
In his third stint with the club this season, Feldman made a case for a permanent spot in the rotation -- a spot that isn't coming, said Rangers manager Ron Washington.
Feldman will be moved to the bullpen to make way for Eric Hurley. And though Feldman would like to stick around in the rotation, he knows his role on the club.
"In a perfect world, I'd like to be in the rotation starting every fifth day," Feldman said. "But you know, as long as I can get out there and pitch some innings whenever they tell me to pitch, you know, you gotta do it."
"When we told Feldman that he had to start, it didn't faze him," Washington added. "It's just nice to have a guy that if anything happens to someone, you can just ask to step in, and he gives you quality innings."
Feldman got into several jams throughout the game, but every time the White Sox began to threaten, the right-hander had the answer. Feldman coaxed three double-play grounders and surrendered only four hits.
He outdueled Chicago starter Javier Vazquez, who pitched just short of excellent. The righty struck out 10 Rangers hitters and made only one mistake.
But it was a costly one.
With two outs in the top of the third, Vazquez walked Michael Young to put two runners on for Josh Hamilton. The American League leader in RBIs got ahead of the count on Vazquez and scalded the 2-0 pitch 422 feet over the center-field wall.
The home run gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead and they never relinquished it.
"I felt good at the plate tonight," Hamilton said. "The strike zone might have been a little wider than normal, but it's one of those things."
Washington gave the slugger a day off Sunday, and it may have been exactly what Hamilton needed.
"Well, he certainly looked fresh tonight," Washington said. "I think his concentration was a lot better. He didn't chase as many pitches as he was chasing [before]. The rest probably did it.
"You know, sometimes when you sit at the ballpark and you just watch the ballgame, it's a little different when you got a day off and you're not at home. He had a whole day off, a mental day where he knew he wasn't gonna do anything but watch a ballgame. He came up big for us there, and it was just huge. We needed something to happen and he gave us a three-run lead."
The win marks the latest point in the season that the Rangers have had sole possession of second place since Aug. 16, 2006. The Rangers had a share of second place after their win over the Angels in Arlington that night, but would remain in third for the rest of the season after a loss the next day.
Monday's victory had all the ingredients of good baseball -- good pitching from the starter and the bullpen, timely hitting and error-free defense.
"Yep, that's baseball," Washington said. "The real key is how you pitch. I think Feldman did a great job going through that lineup. He got three double plays when they looked like they were trying to mount something. He kept the ball in play, threw strikes and they were swinging early. He did great for us."
Frank Francisco, Eddie Guardado and Jamey Wright threw three innings of scoreless relief, combining for six strikeouts and no walks. Francisco has not allowed a run in 13 of his last 14 outings.
The lone White Sox run came in the fourth, when Carlos Quentin -- the AL home run leader -- smacked the first pitch over the left-field wall. Jim Thome singled in the next at-bat and it looked as if Feldman was starting to falter.
But Paul Konerko popped up to the catcher, Nick Swisher popped up to third base and Joe Crede grounded out to end the inning.
"I sort of got into trouble a couple times, but I was able to make a good pitch and get a ground ball," Feldman said. "I was trying to get ground balls, and when you're doing that you have to have good defense, and we had great defense tonight turning those double plays."
Hank Blalock gave the Rangers some insurance with a two-run homer in the eighth, his first extra-base hit since returning from injury four games ago and first home run since April 18 in Boston.
David Just is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.