ARLINGTON -- Neftali Feliz still has the terrific fastball and the secondary pitches were there as well. Feliz proved for seven innings that he does have an effective changeup and slider.But what stood out more than anything on Tuesday night was the way Feliz just stood on the mound while pitching the Rangers to a 1-0 victory over the Mariners at the Ballpark in Arlington. "In control, totally," manager Ron Washington said. This was his first Major League start after 154 high-pressure relief appearances, but Feliz looked like a 10-year veteran starter in working his way through the Mariners lineup. He walked two in the first inning but got out of trouble with a double-play grounder at the right time and then never really wavered the rest of the way. He held the Mariners to four hits and two walks while striking out four in 108 economical pitches. He is only the third Rangers pitcher to ever throw at least seven scoreless innings in his first big league start.
Mike Adams and Joe Nathan combined to retire six straight to close out the game, and the Rangers have now won four of their first five. They also have two shutouts in their first five games, the first time that has happened since 1979. Their rotation has a 2.93 ERA, but the fifth starter is the only one who has gone seven innings."I was trying to throw all my pitches and keep them low and I did that," Feliz said. "There is a big difference between being a closer and being a starter. As a starter you have to think and be calm and execute. The first inning I had to make a little adjustment. I had a little pressure on me and I had to work out of it and make my pitches." Feliz followed the standard route of the veteran pitcher. Under the guidance of catcher Mike Napoli, he came out trying to establish his fastball and used it heavily in the first couple of innings. But as he started going through the Mariners lineup for a second and third time, he started mixing in his other pitches. "That's exactly what he did and I thought Mike did a great job calming him down and keeping him in the moment," Washington said. Of his four strikeouts, two came on sliders and two came on changeups. He also threw three straight off-speed pitches to Ichiro Suzuki in the sixth and got him on a weak fly to center. "Awesome," Napoli said. "He did a great job. We kind of noticed his changeup was on and we were going with it and it was good pitch for him tonight. That can change from night to night. He had that going and we used it a lot. That's what you've got to do as a starter. You can't go out there and throw fastballs every single time through the lineup. You've got to be able mix it up and he did that." The Mariners entered the game 0-for-48 against Feliz in his career, and they didn't get a hit until Justin Smoak singled off him with two out in the fourth. Smoak and Jesus Montero each had a pair of singles for the Mariners only hits on the night. "Everybody knows he can throw 100, but he was mixing in a lot of pitches tonight," Montero said. "He struck me out on an off-speed pitch the first time, so I kind of forgot about the fastball for a little bit. Then I got base hits on a slider and changeup. He was unbelievable tonight. Amazing." "When you're starting, you're not going to throw as hard as when you're closing," Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager said. "But he was still mid-90s. When you get a guy throwing that hard, you get ready for the fastball and when he can throw off-speed pitches for strikes, it makes it tough." Feliz opened the game by walking Chone Figgins. He set down Dustin Ackley on a fly to left, walked Suzuki and then got Smoak to hit into an inning-ending double play. The Mariners didn't have two runners on base in one inning again until the seventh. That's when Smoak led off with a single to right and, after Seager flied out, Montero grounded a single to left. But Feliz, rearing back with the fastball again, got Michael Saunders to hit a grounder at first baseman Mitch Moreland. The Rangers got the force at second, leaving runners at the corners with two out. Miguel Olivo, hitting the ball off the end of the bat, then hit a roller to the right side of the mound. Feliz fielded the ball, bobbled it and recovered in time to get Olivo at first. "He did a great job," Moreland said. "I don't think the game ever moves too fast for Neftali." It did not on Tuesday night. Feliz was a starting pitcher and he looked like he has been doing it for a long time. "He just did a really good job of pitching," designated hitter Michael Young said. "What's impressive is that wasn't his routine as a closer. As a closer he would come in the ninth and throw bullets. Tonight was all pitching."
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.