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Feldman carries heavy load to save 'pen

Feldman carries heavy load to save 'pen

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Feldman carries heavy load to save 'pen
ARLINGTON -- Scott Feldman didn't get the win or save on Monday in the Rangers' 7-3, 11-inning victory over the Tigers.

But the right-hander certainly saved the day for Texas -- and perhaps the next few days for his bullpen mates -- with a critical 4 1/3-inning scoreless stint to help overcome a shaky start by young Derek Holland in the dramatic Game 2 victory in the American League Championship Series.

The Rangers' bullpen still was stretched thin by an extra-inning affair that required manager Ron Washington to call on five relievers for a combined 8 1/3 frames of shutout ball before Nelson Cruz ended things with his walk-off grand slam -- the first official walk-off slam in postseason history.

But imagine how things might have played out if not for a yeoman's effort by Feldman. The former starter allowed one hit, no walks and four strikeouts before handing the baton to Alexi Ogando in the eighth.

For Feldman, who is getting back to form after microfracture surgery on his knee kept him in the Minor Leagues until late July, it was particularly sweet to play a major role again for the Rangers.

"It's great. Everybody wants to be in this situation," Feldman said. "Luckily today, we came out on top. I think mainly, the No. 1 thing is we've just got a great group of guys here, and for me, I can honestly say that was probably the coolest game I've ever been a part of.

"When I got done even watching that game, I thought my beard was going to turn gray."

The 6-foot-6 redhead's effort helped overcome a rough start by Holland, who surrendered three runs on four hits, four walks and a hit batter in 2 2/3 innings before getting the hook from Washington.

"You really have to give it to the bullpen, especially Feldman and Ogando," said Holland. "They set the tone for us, then [Mike] Adams and those guys followed and did their jobs. All those guys came in and cleaned up the mess I made."

Holland has been bitten by inconsistency before -- he had two previous starts shorter than Monday's outing -- but was strong down the stretch with a 10-1 record and 2.77 ERA over his last 15 regular-season outings.

"I'm very frustrated with how I performed," he said. "I didn't execute my pitches. I couldn't get my fastball down and that's a big thing. If you can't throw your fastball, you're not going to stay in there very long. I tried to do as much as I could, but unfortunately it didn't work out."

That's where Feldman entered, first stranding a runner on third by getting the final out in the third to keep the Tigers' lead at 3-2, then mowing through the next four innings while allowing just a leadoff single to Alex Avila in the sixth.

For the Rangers, it was the perfect tonic to what remains a difficult bullpen burden, given three straight games in Detroit on the heels of 8 1/3 innings of work Monday. Texas will also look to Colby Lewis to continue his postseason success when he takes the hill in Game 3. Still, Feldman's work could prove crucial for the Rangers as the series progresses.

"With the four days in a row, it's going to be pretty tough on all these guys," Feldman said. "So yeah, that was a big thing to try to go as many innings as I could. Obviously, they're not going to keep sending me out there if I'm giving up the house, but I was just trying to work quickly and get through as many as I could."

Feldman was the Rangers' Opening Day starter in 2010 after going 17-8 in '09, but his knee began bothering him, and he finished off a difficult season in the bullpen before undergoing microfracture surgery in November.

He pitched in just 11 games in the regular season this year after his late-July return, including two starts, going 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA. He threw three innings of scoreless mop-up work in the Rangers' 9-0 loss to the Rays in Game 1 of the AL Division Series and said he feels healthy and ready for whatever comes his way now.

"The whole injury thing and not playing that much, what can you do about that?" he said. "We're on a playoff team here and you just wait for an opportunity. And when you get it, make the most of it."

Feldman did that and more in Monday's win. And, yeah, he figures he could have pitched into the eighth inning and beyond if asked.

"I think I could go however long they want me to," he said. "In the playoffs, you have so much adrenaline that if I was getting tired, I had no idea. I didn't feel tired at all."

Especially not in the wake of a walk-off win that provided tremendous relief for the Rangers in more ways than one.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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