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Wilson, Feliz wrap up season on high note

Wilson, Feliz wrap up season on high note

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ARLINGTON -- C.J. Wilson began the season in a new role. Neftali Feliz took on a new one a week in. Together, their breakout years as starting pitcher and closer were capped in fitting fashion in Saturday's 6-2 victory over the defending American League West champion Los Angeles Angels.

For Wilson, it was about working out of a first-inning jam and keeping his team close enough that the offense had a chance to rally. His reward was his 15th win of a season in which the 29-year-old left-hander has solidified himself as the Rangers' No. 2 starter behind ace Cliff Lee.

For Feliz, the 22-year-old rookie took over for Frank Francisco on April 12 and never looked back, even while hitting a few potholes along the way. Feliz got the final three outs on Saturday night for his 40th save of the season, extending his Major League rookie record.

If you're searching for two of the biggest reasons why the Rangers dethroned the Angels as AL West champs, look no further than Wilson and Feliz.

"C.J. and Neftali are right at the top of the list," third baseman Michael Young said. "C.J., Tommy [Hunter], Colby [Lewis], Neffie, a bunch of our guys in the bullpen. There have been great players up and down our roster who have gotten us to this point. That's what playoff teams do, everyone contributes. Obviously, C.J. and Neffie have had great years."

Wilson's start and Feliz's finish helped the Rangers to their 90th win of the season, marking the fourth time in franchise history the Rangers have won at least that many.

The Rangers are still waiting to learn the identity of their playoff opponent. The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays have yet to decide the AL East champion and the Rangers' AL Division Series opponent on Sunday. The Yankees play Boston and the Rays are in Kansas City.

Wilson knows he'll be pitching Game 2 of the ALDS on Thursday, and he'll take with him the confidence from an outing Saturday in which he allowed the first five Angels hitters to reach base, but somehow got out of the first inning down, 2-0, and kept the score there until the Rangers took the lead for good in the fifth inning.

Angels leadoff man Peter Bourjos, who has been on tear in this series, started things off with a triple. Wilson then walked his first of two batters, Reggie Willits, and allowed an RBI single to Torii Hunter. After a walk to Juan Rivera, Howard Kendrick ripped a single for a 2-0 lead.

Wilson then worked out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam, getting Maicer Izturis to fly out to shallow right field before striking out Mike Napoli and Erick Aybar.

"I'd been pitching most of the guys like literally the exact same way all year, and they went up there collectively and made an adjustment," Wilson said. "And so once I saw that, I readjusted and then I was in control from there."

Wilson said he'd rather not talk about the adjustment he made -- "proprietary technology" -- whatever that means. What he did after getting out of the first inning was retire 12 of the next 13 batters he faced before being pulled as expected after five innings. From the second inning on, Wilson allowed only a two-out single to Aybar in the fourth.

Wilson threw 82 pitches in his final tuneup before his Game 2 start. The lefty had four strikeouts and two walks.

"He didn't lose his cool and he kept battling and then after that first inning he put up four zeroes," Washington said.

The Rangers' offense responded to Wilson's moxie. Julio Borbon had a one-out walk in the bottom of the fifth. Elvis Andrus moved Borbon to third with a single. Young cut the lead to 2-1 with a sacrifice fly to center field.

Hamilton then handed Wilson a victory, crushing a 1-1 fastball into the Rangers' bullpen in right-center field for a two-run homer and a 3-2 lead.

The Rangers tacked on two insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh. Hamilton's sacrifice fly scored one run, and Vladimir Guerrero had a run-scoring single to right field. Matt Treanor drew a bases-loaded walk to score pinch-runner Jeff Francoeur for a 6-2 lead.

Meanwhile, the Rangers' bullpen, tops in the AL, did what it's done all season, supplying four scoreless innings. Derek Holland may have come out of it in the happiest shape, possibly solidifying a spot in the bullpen for the playoffs by delivering a solid two frames. Holland allowed one hit and had one strikeout.

Holland said after the game that Washington asked him when the last time was he had pitched in back-to-back games -- the left-hander told his manager it was last year. That's a signal that the Rangers may test Holland on Sunday to see how he reacts to going in back-to-back games, a sign he is being strongly considered for the postseason roster.

Feliz, of course, is the linchpin of the bullpen, and he'll enter the playoffs on a roll. He's had 16 1/3 scoreless innings over his past 16 appearances. He's now saved all 10 wins against the Angels this season, allowing two hits in 30 at-bats.

He's added a "slurve" that has allowed him to show opposing batters a secondary pitch against his 100-mph fastball.

"The thing about him, he's gotten smarter as the year progressed," Washington said. "He's starting to learn how to use his secondary pitches better. There were couple of bumps in the road there, but with each bump, he learned from it. That's what the game is all about. We're very lucky to have him, especially with Frankie going down."

Feliz actually got a double-play ball to end Saturday's game, and it came on a 93-mph four-seam fastball. It helped Feliz reach the goal he set when he took over for Francisco.

"When I became closer, my goal was 40 saves," Feliz said. "At the All-Star Game, I had 23 saves, and I started thinking about 40 saves and breaking the record."

Todd Wills is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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