ARLINGTON, TX - JUNE 22: Colby Lewis #48 of the Texas Rangers pitches during the seventh inning against the Houston Astros at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on June 22, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
Rangers closer Neftali Feliz wanted the ball.
Even though he had thrown a season-high two innings the day before, Feliz insisted he was fine to pitch again Wednesday night and manager Ron Washington was willing to let him.
Feliz's velocity was there but his location wasn't, and the Houston Astros took advantage, scoring four runs in the ninth inning to pull out a 5-3 victory.
"I felt good, but I just didn't have the good result," Feliz said. "My arm was OK. I didn't feel anything that wouldn't let me come in today."
Feliz (0-1) came in with a 3-1 lead and immediately gave up a double. He surrendered four hits, including a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Matt Downs, while recording only two outs. It was his fourth blown save, matching his career total coming into this season.
Washington said before the game that Feliz looked "effortless" in throwing 35 pitches Tuesday night. He insisted afterward there was no carry-over effect.
"He's the closer," Washington said. "He was in the game. Just didn't get it done."
The Astros were almost glad to see Feliz.
"I'm sure his arm wasn't as live as it would've been on a fresh night," Downs said. "We were actually surprised to see him in there. We figured we would see somebody else. Thank goodness we did."
Houston was two outs from getting swept in the first half of the Lone Star Series, but wound up heading home feeling pretty good about things. The Astros may have the worst record in the majors (28-48), but they have won 10 wins in their final at-bat and they just went 3-3 on this road trip. They are off Thursday before playing nine straight at home, all against AL teams, including three more against Texas.
"There's no doubt it's a confidence-booster, just with the guys battling so much," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "That was sweet."
Carlos Lee greeted Feliz with a bouncer just over third base that rolled into the left-field corner for a double. Lee came home on a double by Chris Johnson before an infield single by Jason Michaels. Johnson scored on a passed ball before Downs' fourth homer of the season and the quick trot.
"I probably had a little adrenaline going at that time," Downs said. "It probably kicked in, a little excited."
Before that, the Astros hadn't homered in eight games, their longest such streak since August 1992.
Downs has reached safely in nine of his last 12 pinch-hit appearances (four hits, four walks and a hit by pitch). When Mills decided to pinch-hit for shortstop Clint Barmes, a .215 hitter, he knew who he was going to use.
"He's done a real good job off the bench, swinging the bat for us. that was a key spot for him," Mills said. "He's been hitting the ball out of the ballpark, but we just felt real confident with him putting a good swing on the ball, wherever it went."
That made a winner of reliever Mark Melancon (5-1), who pitched a perfect ninth after being given a lead. The right-hander had walked the first two batters he faced when he took over to start the eighth before Michael Young's RBI double gave Texas a 3-1 lead.
The meltdown by Feliz wasted an impressive outing by Rangers starter Colby Lewis, who dealt with neck spasms while throwing seven scoreless innings.
Lewis said going with Feliz was "absolutely" the right move.
"That's his job, that's what he does," Lewis said. "It's one of those situations where it wasn't his night. It stinks that we didn't win. ... We had an opportunity and let it slip away."
Nelson Cruz put the Rangers up 2-0 when he led off the fifth with a 415-foot homer to left.
That was the 20th homer this season allowed by Brett Myers, who came into the game tied with Lewis for the most homers allowed this season. The Rangers got their first run on a wild pitch by Myers, who struck out six while allowing two runs over six innings.
Dave Bush benefited from a double-play grounder that got out Houston's two fastest runners after taking over for Lewis, who allowed only three hits and struck out eight.
Bush gave up singles to pinch-hitter Angel Sanchez and leadoff hitter Michael Bourn to start the eighth. Sanchez scored when Jason Bourgeois hit into a double play that also got out Bourn. Bourgeois and Bourn have combined for 49 stolen bases.
Ian Kinsler led off the Texas first with a single and a stolen base. He went to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch while Adrian Beltre was at the plate before striking out to end the inning.