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09/13/08 8:17 PM ET
Feldman falters as Rangers take loss
Hurler tagged for six runs; Cruz collects club's lone RBI
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman, sitting on a 1-0 lead, started off Saturday by pitching three scoreless innings before opening the fourth by getting Ryan Sweeney to hit a little fly ball into right-center field. Right fielder Nelson Cruz raced in, went into a slide, reached out rather easily and ... dropped the ball. Jack Cust then hit a two-run home run. One inning later, the Athletics had the bases loaded with two out when Aaron Cunningham lofted a weak fly ball to right. Cruz came racing inning, dove headfirst and ... trapped the ball. Two runs scored, and Feldman was done for the day. Feldman is done for the season, at least as a starter, and that's the way it went for him in his final outing, as he allowed six runs in 4 2/3 innings in the Rangers' 7-1 loss to the Athletics on a sunny afternoon at McAfee Coliseum. The loss left Feldman with a record of 5-7 and a 5.27 ERA, and the book is now supposed to be closed on him this season. With just over 150 innings in the Major and Minor Leagues this season -- more than twice of any of his previous three seasons -- the Rangers are taking Feldman out of the rotation. He did not finish with one of his better efforts. This was only the fourth time in 23 starts in which he was unable to pitch at least five innings, and it snapped a streak of 18 straight games in which a Rangers starter pitched at least five innings. "Games like this are always frustrating," Feldman said. "A couple of times I thought I made some pretty good pitches, and the ball fell in. That gets frustrating. But I made a bad pitch to Cust, and he's a pretty good player." Feldman also walked two in the fifth inning, and that cost him during the Athletics' five-run rally. All five runs scored came with two outs, and that's what frustrated manager Ron Washington. Rangers pitchers entered the game having allowed a .272 batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs, good for second highest in the American League. Overall, opponents were hitting .276 against Rangers pitchers with two outs, the highest mark in the AL. The five-run rally was more of the same. "If we could have gotten out of that inning with the score 2-1, it probably would have been different," Washington said. "We certainly have to figure out how to get three outs in an inning once we get two. A lot of runs have scored on us when we get two outs." Feldman, unless an emergency starter is needed, will now go to the bullpen and ride out the season before getting ready to compete for a spot in the rotation next season. "He's going to be one of those guys vying for a starting spot," Washington said. "He has earned the opportunity, but there is room for improvement. He's got to develop a changeup, and he's got to use his breaking ball in all different counts instead of just trying to get a first-pitch strike. Overall he's handled himself pretty well as a first-time starter." There are two ways to look at it. One view is that, considering this was his first season as a starter and he was supposed to have spent the season pitching at Double-A Frisco, Feldman gave the Rangers far more than they expected. "I think I gained a lot of experience," Feldman said. "My numbers don't show all the experience I've gained. I know there's a lot of stuff I have to improve on, but when they first told me I was going to be a starter and going to Double-A, I was just hoping to get some starts up here late in the year." Instead, he has been with the Rangers since the end of April, and he ended up starting 23 games. Curiously, though, Texas had trouble winning for him. That's the other way to look at it. The club was 7-16 in those 23 games. But here is the bizarre part: Feldman went at least six innings in 16 starts, and the Rangers went 5-11 in those games. They were 41-14 in all other games in which their starter went at least six innings. "I have to prove I can do this for a long time," Feldman said. "I know I need to improve, but considering this is the first time I've thrown this month since college, I think I've shown I have the potential to be a starter, and hopefully I'll do nothing but improve."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.