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No Relief for Rangers in Loss

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP

    Losses happen in baseball. Baseball teams don't go undefeated. Great teams even lose a fair amount.

    And make no mistake, the Texas Rangers are in rarified air in the league this year as one of the "great" teams in the league, sporting the fourth best record in all of baseball.

    It's not the fact that the Rangers lost Tuesday's game to the Minnesota Twins, a day after beating them 20-6, it's how it happened.

    Nothing is more demoralizing in baseball than losing a late-inning lead because a closer can't do his sole job, which is usually to get three outs to win a game.

    On Tuesday, Rangers closer, and reigning AL Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz blew his fifth save of the season as he managed just one out, on his first pitch of the ninth inning with an 8-7 Rangers lead.

    Before you could say "Hello Win Column", the Rangers were trailing 9-8 after frozen rope, pinch-hit doubles by Joe Mauer and Jim Thome.

    Feliz's decline this year has been staggering. There's clearly something wrong with him after he was stretched out to be a starter in the spring before eventually settling back into the closer's role, in which he converted 40 of 43 save opportunities last year as a rookie.

    The biggest changes with Feliz this year have been the big ones — walks and strikeouts.

    Last year, Feliz struck out 71 batters and walked just 18. This year, he's struck out 26 and walked 20. Talk about a drop-off, that's an unprecedented one. The numbers are staggering. Feliz is still hitting the high numbers on the radar gun but he's lost any control of his off-speed stuff and can't make batters miss anymore.

    Closers can't be "pitch to contact" guys that rely on their defense. There's no margin for error in that role, and that's basically what Feliz has been this year.

    I'm not ready to give up on Feliz, not even close to that point. But unless things turn around in a hurry, just magically, more than halfway through the season, the Rangers are going to need major reinforcements for the postseason. Imagine if what happened last night happened in the postseason. Wow, that would sting.

    The Rangers are listed as a favorite to land San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell with the trade deadline rapidly approaching on Sunday. While his strikeout-walk ratio isn't a whole lot better than Feliz's (31-16), he obviously is doing something Feliz isn't with his 29 saves and 2.40 ERA.

    Tuesday night's events might make the Rangers push even harder to get Bell, along with another reliever such as Washington's Tyler Clippard or one of the A's many available relievers.

    If Feliz can't get the job done, one of those guys will.

    Look no further than Ron Washington's quote from Tuesday's postgame press conference to see how confident the Rangers skipper is in Feliz right now. It's not too inspiring.

    "I'll give him the ball again," Washington said about the next Rangers save opportunity. "There's not much else I can do."

    Not yet, at least.