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04/27/10 1:09 AM ET
Rangers stung with ninth-inning homers
Reliever Feliz gives up back-to-back shots in loss to Tigers
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- At some point, Rangers closer Neftali Feliz must show he can pitch in back-to-back games as a reliever. He tried it for the first time ever on Monday night and didn't fare too well. Feliz, pitching in a tie game, gave up one-out home runs to Miguel Cabrera and Brandon Inge in the top of the ninth inning that gave the Tigers an 8-6 victory over the Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers trailed 6-1 going into the bottom of the fifth before rallying to tie the game, but still had to settle for a four-game split with the Tigers. They are back to three games under .500 while sitting in last place in the American League West. "We need to stay the course and keep working on the things we need to work on ... not make any drastic changes," third baseman Michael Young said. "We're going to be fine. We're a good team. Obviously we want that reflected in the standings but sooner or later we're going to find a way to get everything on the same page, offense, defense and pitching." Feliz was called upon because, in a tie game at home, there was not going to be a save situation. Manager Ron Washington had already used two right-handed setup relievers in Chris Ray and Frank Francisco. Darren O'Day, also right-handed, was unavailable because of a strained muscle in his lower back and is day-to-day. Washington had left-hander Darren Oliver available but the Tigers had three big right-handed hitters coming up: Magglio Ordonez, Cabrera and Inge. "Ninth inning, tie ballgame, there's the closer," Washington said. Feliz had thrown just seven pitches the night before in finishing the Rangers' 8-4 victory, but didn't come out with his usual velocity. His fastball was 94-95 mph instead of 98-100. The Rangers insist that had nothing to do with what happened. "It wasn't a good result but I felt good," Feliz said. "It was the location of my pitches. They weren't where I wanted to locate them. That was the problem." Feliz did retire Ordonez on a fly to center. But Cabrera jumped on a 2-1 fastball and drove it to the opposite field beyond the Rangers' bullpen to give the Tigers a 7-6 lead. Inge then turned on a 0-1 fastball and hit it into the left-field seats for his second home run of the game. "I knew I didn't have to swing hard against a hard thrower like that, just make contact," Cabrera said. "The guy has power to the opposite field and didn't miss," Washington said. "The one to Inge was right there too. I don't think miles per hour had anything to do with it ... 94-95, that's good enough, it just comes down to where the pitch is." Regardless, the Rangers still want Feliz to be able to pitch on back-to-back nights. If not, he's a part-time closer. He'll get more opportunities. "It's important if you're going to be a closer ... very important," Washington said. "But it's not about velocity when you make your pitches ... 94-95 is just as good as 98-100 in the right spot." The two home runs spoiled the Rangers' comeback after they found themselves down 4-0 in the first inning and 6-1 in the middle of the fifth. Rangers starter Matt Harrison got off to just as bad of a start as Colby Lewis did the night before but didn't have quite the same dramatic turnaround. Harrison found himself in trouble right away when Austin Jackson led off with a single. Harrison then walked Johnny Damon and Ordonez to load the bases. Cabrera's single to left scored one run and, after Inge struck out, Ryan Raburn doubled to deep left-center. He just missed a grand slam but three runs scored anyway. "I think maybe I was trying to overthrow," Harrison said. "I felt good and I was trying too hard. I tried to overthrow and was erratic. I put myself in a bad situation by not being able to throw strikes." If Harrison had been able to hold the Tigers to four runs like Lewis did on Sunday, it might have made a huge difference. Harrison did retire 12 of 14 hitters after Raburn's double, but Cabrera singled with one out in the fifth and Inge hit a two-run home run over the left-field wall to give the Tigers a five-run lead. The Rangers were only able to pull even. Nelson Cruz scored on a wild pitch in the fifth, David Murphy hit a two-run double in the seventh and Vladimir Guerrero hit a two-RBI single in the eighth to tie it. Getting the game tied was not easy. The Rangers just couldn't keep it tied before they got one more chance at the plate.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.