Texas Rangers: When Worst Tames Best

Neftali Feliz is now back in the role of closer for the Texas Rangers. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs
Neftali Feliz is now back in the role of closer for the Texas Rangers. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs

By Will Martin

It was about one month ago I was in Houston for the weekend getting a baseball fix of the Houston variety with the Detroit Tigers in town.

The very week that Detroit had passed through Arlington with Ian Kinsler capping off a homecoming with a first at bat home run off of Colby Lewis as the Tigers swept the Rangers.

The very game where Ian riled up ex teammates by waving to the bench.

Now fast forward five days to Minute Maid Ballpark June 28 where the Houston Astros were one out away from getting a victory over this same team from Motown.

Ian Kinsler-certainly no stranger to playing in Houston-was at the plate with two runners on in a 2-1 game.

What was a pitchers duel between Brett Oberholzer and Max Scherzer now in the hands of the relief.

Ian went deep to provide the Tigers their only win of the weekend. Houston could have and should have swept Motown.

That relief pitcher was Jerome Williams.

When reading the starting lineups for this night’s game with Oakland-the best team in all of baseball-and saw the same name starting for the Rangers after a call-up from Round Rock I said to myself, ‘Uh-oh. This could be a really short stint!’

Baseball is a funny game. Where stats and probabilities lie things are never as bad as they might seem nor are they ever as good as a trend might indicate.

In this first home game (after a miserable 2-5 road trip) after the Joakim Soria trade the reliever turned starter went out and pitched his heart out for six solid innings. Only five hits allowed, 1 run, no walks allowed and four strikeouts.

“He gave us an outstanding job, he really did,” Rangers skipper Ron Washington said. “I’ll take six innings every night with one run. He did it. He was changing speeds, was moving the ball around … He really did a good job.”

July 8 the Astros released Williams who then went on to Triple A Round Rock. His start Friday night happened to allow Nick Tepesch an extra day of rest. Jerome made the most of his chance as he set on sights on getting through the six innings in 100 degree heat.

“I wanted to finish the sixth inning no matter what,” Williams said. “I felt strong, I felt fine out there … so I came out and finished it.”

11 straight batters retired before a double and a pair of singles plated Oakland’s lone run of the evening. Texas used Roman Mendez, Ryan Feierbend, Neal Cotts before giving Neftali Feliz the closer role/chance in the 9th inning before 35,582 fans.

A save situation for Feliz. His first since the sixth Game of the 2011 World Series. Three years and one Tommy John surgery removed from.

The fans were also well aware of the importance of the moment as they roared their approval of a rare win and save scenario. The best being tamed by the worst.

“The emotions the fans gave me, I like to feel them,” Feliz said. “Feeling the fans roaring for me to finish the game, I enjoy it.”

The 2014 season is a lost one for the Texas Rangers at 41-62. For one night it felt great to be able to rekindle and recreate that magical feeling of a different year when a starting pitcher went a solid six. A starter who made the transition from bullpen to starter at that. Followed up by a combined effort of relief work by a group of set up men before the closer came in and clamped down for victory.

It almost felt like 2011 in the near 100 degree heat. We set a record for those 70 times that summer.

“Tonight we were able to do what we needed to do when we created some opportunities for ourselves,” Ron Washington said. “We just have to continue to do that. Take advantage of what we create.”

2015 will get here soon enough. Now to just get past 2014 and look back on a season that was indeed a test in between injuries and losses.