Feldman earns keep as Rangers keep rolling

Feldman earns keep as Rangers keep rolling

Feldman earns keep as Rangers keep rolling
KANSAS CITY -- Rangers manager Ron Washington issued a major proclamation about pitcher Scott Feldman on Saturday night.

"He's throwing the ball very well ... and he will get his next start," Washington announced after the Rangers' 4-2 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Feldman's reaction?

"Sweet," he said with a smile. "All right."

Both were stating the obvious. No longer is Feldman considered a spot starter. No longer does he have to wonder when his next start will be ... or if he'll get his next start.

Feldman now just takes the ball every fifth day like every other member of the rotation, just like he did in 2009, when he was the Rangers' Pitcher of the Year. Only right now, the right-hander may be pitching even better than he did that season.

Feldman has won six straight decisions over six starts and one relief appearance after holding the Royals to two runs in 7 2/3 innings. During that winning streak, Feldman has a 2.81 ERA while walking three and striking out 26 in 41 2/3 innings.

"He did a good job again," Washington said. "He's keeping the ball down, he's mixing his pitches, and he had a good fastball that he was able to move around in the zone. He was outstanding tonight and we certainly needed it."

The Rangers also needed Alexi Ogando, too. He was thrust in the closer's role again as Washington decided to give Joe Nathan another night off. Ogando responded with another scoreless ninth to earn his second save in two nights and his third on the season.

"I'm happy to help the team as much as I can," Ogando said. "I want be a good teammate and do what I can to to help the bullpen get rest."

In doing so, Ogando finished off the Rangers' fourth straight win and they now have a 5 1/2-game lead over the Athletics in the American League West.

"We're playing good baseball," Washington said. "It's only four games, I'd like to make it 24 games."

Feldman has certainly done his part. He allowed two runs on six hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He is 6-6 with a 4.52 ERA on the season after starting out 0-6 with a 6.50 ERA.

"I think I've just sort of been going about my business," Feldman said. "I've felt the same way the whole year. It's nice to get an opportunity to help out. I'm just focused on that and making my pitches."

The Royals were 1-for-8 off Feldman with runners in scoring position and 1-for-9 in the game. Royals manager Ned Yost was asked if he felt his team should have done more against Feldman.

"No, I think we did pretty good off Feldman," Yost said. "He had a tremendous two-seamer going this way, a tremendous cutter going this way and a split and a curveball going this way. So he had three pitches going on three planes and was throwing strikes with all three of them."

It has been that way through his winning streak and part of why Feldman has seized a spot in the rotation.

"I think a lot of time you get in sort of a rhythm," Feldman saoid. "Sometimes the relationship between pitcher and catcher also gets overlooked. But it seems like with [Mike Napoli], we have been hooked up a lot lately and really gotten to know each other. I think I've shaken him off just three times during this whole stretch. The guys have also been playing good defense behind me. It's been a combination of a whole lot of things."

Feldman beat rookie left-hander Will Smith, who was making his seventh Major League start and first against the Rangers. Smith went 5 2/3 innings and allowed four runs on eight hits, two walks and two strikeouts.

Josh Hamilton had a two-run single in the third and Mike Olt, making his second Major League start, drove in two runs with a sacrifice fly. The Rangers, after struggling offensively for much of July, have opened August with 35 runs and 52 hits in four games, which may suggest they are starting to get their offense going again.

"You'd like to think so," Hamilton said. "But as soon as I say that ..."

Maybe some things are better left unsaid. Especially obvious things like Feldman getting his next start.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.