One of the reasons I like Interleague Play is it lets me see teams I don’t usually have time to watch, and as a result, some managing strategies I don’t usually see. Tonight was one of those nights.
Heading into the 9th inning, the Rangers held a 4-1 lead — an easy call for Ron Washington, as he brought in rookie closer Neftali Feliz. Feliz, for those who don’t know, has absolutely filthy stuff and is bound to be the ace of their rotation in the near future (he was also a piece in the famous Mark Teixeira deal, along with Elvis Andrus and Jarrod Saltalamacchia). Tonight, Feliz struggled.
After getting Jim Edmonds to ground out to start the inning, Feliz allowed four straight runners to reach — two on walks where he barely sniffed the strike zone. After Rickie Weeks singled in a run to cut the score to 4-2, Washington did something that might seem weird to Brewers fans.
He pulled his closer for another reliever.
I was almost surprised that a manager is allowed to do that, with how many times Ken Macha has left Trevor Hoffman out there until he loses the game. Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux saw that Feliz had no control and almost immediately made the change. It turned out to be the right move — Chris Ray allowed another run to come in, but ultimately got Prince Fielder to fly out to end the game.
The Rangers do a lot of things that don’t make much sense for an AL team (sac bunting, running a lot), but I applaud Washington for not giving in to conventional wisdom and letting his closer “work himself out of trouble.” Macha talks a lot about having too much respect for Hoffman to make that kind of call, but when it comes down to winning games, I’d rather see a manager throw that respect out the window and make a move that would increase the odds of hanging on. Who knows, maybe Washington pulled Feliz because he hasn’t earned that “respect” yet, but whatever the reasoning, it was a sound decision.
Where would the Brewers be if Macha pulled Hoffman during some of his extended meltdowns? Would they be 34-28, like the Rangers are after tonight? Probably not. But I can almost guarantee you they wouldn’t be 26-36.
Kudos to Washington for doing the right thing.
W: Scott Feldman (4-6)
L: Manny Parra (1-4)
SV: Chris Ray (1)
TEX HR: Josh Hamilton (14)
MIL HR: None