ARLINGTON (AP) – Despite the sixth blown save this season by Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington insists he still feels good about his closer.
Michael Brantley hit a go-ahead RBI double and Jason Kipnis homered in Cleveland’s four-run ninth inning as the Indians rallied past the Rangers 7-5 in 106-degree heat Saturday night.
Texas had won the first five meetings with Cleveland this season, and the Rangers carried a 4-3 advantage into the ninth before the Indians came back against Feliz (1-3), who failed to nail down his 23rd save.
“My confidence is still high,” Washington said of the 23-year-old Feliz, who converted 40 saves as a rookie in 2010. “It never wavered.”
Feliz was pitching for the third straight day, but he refused to use fatigue as an excuse.
“I felt good,” Feliz said through a translator. “I didn’t think I had any problems with my arm. I was 100 percent. I was trying to do the same things. I felt the same the first three days, but on the first two outings I had a better result than today. That’s what happens. It happens in baseball.”
Kosuke Fukudome led off the ninth with a double off the glove of right fielder Nelson Cruz, who sprinted back to the warning track and nearly made a spectacular catch.
Ezequiel Carrera’s sacrifice bunt moved Fukudome to third, and Lonnie Chisenhall’s single to right on a 1-2 pitch drove in Fukudome to tie it.
Brantley’s double to right drove in Chisenhall, who slid in safely ahead of second baseman Ian Kinsler’s relay throw to the plate.
Kipnis greeted Yoshinori Tateyama with a two-run drive to extend Cleveland’s lead to 7-4.
Rangers starter C.J. Wilson is a former closer, and he knows how daunting the role can be.
“It’s such a hard thing to explain to someone who’s not out there, but being a former closer myself, I understand exactly how thin a margin you have,” Wilson said.
“With a young guy, he’s going to have ups and downs. He’s not going to be Mariano Rivera for another year or two, maybe three. That’s part of the development process. It’s not an easy job at all. That’s why I support him so much, because he’s got so much potential.”
Washington preferred to credit the Indians rather than criticize his closer.
“The problem tonight was the Cleveland Indians,” Washington said. “They put some at-bats together against our closer and beat us. There’s no guarantees in the game of baseball. When you give the ball to your closer, you feel good about the game being over. But there are no guarantees.”
Frank Herrmann (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win. Chris Perez allowed a two-out RBI single to Elvis Andrus in the ninth, then gave up an infield single to Josh Hamilton.
Perez’s wild pitch moved the runners to second and third but Michael Young grounded out, giving Perez his 23rd save in 26 opportunities.
“It was very important to win this ballgame because the game yesterday was very tough and you don’t want those games to snowball,” Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. “These guys have shown that resiliency the whole year.”
The Rangers had a four-run seventh off Indians starter Fausto Carmona, with Kinsler ending a 3-for-42 slide with a two-run single and Hamilton hitting a tiebreaking sacrifice fly.
Wilson gave up three runs — two earned — and five hits in 6 2-3 innings with nine strikeouts and two walks.
The first-pitch temperature of 106 degrees was the highest in Rangers Ballpark history.
Wilson and Carmona both pitched shutout ball over the first six innings before the Indians broke through with a three-run seventh.
Fukudome hit an infield single and scored on Shelley Duncan’s double. When Wilson walked No. 9 hitter Lou Marson with two outs, Darren Oliver came on in relief.
Oliver was called for a balk when he dropped the ball while his foot was on the rubber, allowing pinch-runner Carrera to score from third.
The Indians put up a third run with the help of a throwing error by Young at third base.
Texas’ seventh-inning rally was helped by Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera’s error. Kinsler hit a two-run single to tie it and scored the go-ahead run on Hamilton’s sacrifice fly.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)