The Neftali Feliz-return-to-closer-prominence journey is still a long way from being completed, and that showed in more ways than one on Wednesday afternoon in the finale of a quick two-game set with the Miami Marlins.
The Rangers led 5-2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning, and Feliz got a chance at redemption after giving up a walk-off single in Tuesday night's extra-inning loss to the Marlins. Things didn't appear to be going too well after the former all-star closer and AL Rookie of the Year when he gave up two quick solo homers to Marcell Ozuna and former Ranger Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
After those two homers put the Marlins within one run with two outs, Feliz walked the next batter to put the tying run on base, at which point Ron Washington begrudgingly headed out to the mound to seemingly get his embattled closer.
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That's when the competitive fire Washington has been waiting to see from the almost too-relaxed Feliz came out. Feliz told Washington he wanted to finish the game, and instead of taking the ball, Washington decided to let him stay in the game.
What followed was beautiful, vintage Feliz, as he struck out Donovan Solano without throwing a pitch less than 95 mph, after he'd earlier given up a homer on a lazy, straight 87-mph changeup.
"I told him I was about to take him out,” Washington said. “He said, ‘Give me one more hitter.’ And he said it like he meant it, so I gave him one more hitter. Plus, he’s my closer.
"After I walked off that mound, he certainly went and found something we haven’t seen before. Hopefully that lets him know that it’s in there. I saw 96 a couple times. It’s just a matter of Neffy trusting his arm and letting it go.”
It was a huge moment for Feliz, who hopefully can parlay it into something positive moving forward. The line didn't look good after he allowed two runs, but he finished the game out, got the save, and might have just gotten his confidence back in the process.