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Wash Was Brilliant in Game 1

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Wash Was Brilliant in Game 1

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Ron Washington and Jim Leyland say hello before the start of Game 1 of the ALCS.

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The inclement weather that postponed Sunday's Game 2 of the ALCS was also in full effect during Saturday night's Game 1.

With Game 1 through four innings before the rains came, both Ron Washington and Jim Leyland were forced into an uncomfortable position for a big-league manager, especially when that situation comes in such a big game.

Washington's handling of his pitching after C.J. Wilson was forced from the game in the fifth inning because of a second rain delay was the reason the Rangers were able to hold on and win the opener, 3-2, and get a pivotal win over the Tigers ace/Cy Young lock/MVP candidate Justin Verlander.

The one mistake Washington might have made was bringing Wilson back after a 45-minute delay, but that's a 50-50 proposition. Wilson just wasn't crisp after the layoff, and really didn't have his plus stuff until the fourth inning when he struck out the side before the delay.

But after what Washington did with his bullpen, no one could've questioned him about anything involving Wilson.

Wilson had walked the bases loaded when the second round of rains came, which ended up being a blessing in disguise for the Rangers.

When the game resumed after more than an hour, Washington brought in the lefty specialist du jour in Mike Gonzalez, who you may remember struck out Johnny Damon on three pitches in the ALDS when Damon was the only batter he was tasked with getting out.

On Saturday, Gonzalez needed two pitches to induce a groundout to Ian Kinsler to get the Rangers out of the fifth inning with no runs allowed, and that ended up being the crucial turning point in the game.

Washington went to Alexi Ogando for the sixth and seventh innings, and that went swimmingly. Ogando is the Rangers' X-factor this postseason because he's went right back to the bullpen, where he excelled in 2010, and picked up where he left off. He struck out three, walked one and gave up no hits.

Then in the eighth, you assumed Washington would go to Mike Adams, but instead he brought in the ageless Darren Oliver, who has struggled pretty mightily recently. But he's a lefty, and Washington loves his lefty-lefty matchups, and the Tigers had two of them to start the eighth. Oliver needed just eight pitches to retire them, including one strikeout. That brought in Adams with two outs and he struck out the only batter he faced on six pitches.

Then, of course, in the ninth inning Washington went with Neftali Feliz, who gave up a bunt single (the only Tigers hit against the Rangers bullpen). But after that, Feliz was amazing. He recorded three strikeouts and by many accounts was the best he'd been all season, or maybe ever.

Just a quick sampling of some in-game tweets from some contemporaries of Feliz...

Rangers relief pitcher Darren O'Day, @DODay56, who was not put on the postseason roster:

"Feliz's last fastball to Austin Jackson was the singular most impressive pitch I've ever seen. Painted down/away at 101 mph for the K. WOW."

Wilson, @str8edgeracer, who watched Feliz from the dugout, put it much more simply:

"Wish I could do that."

So yes, Washington was brilliant on Saturday, but having a top-notch bullpen at his disposal sure does make that job easier.

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