Feliz tosses 7 shutout innings in debut as starter as Rangers blank Mariners
April 11, 2012 at 3:16 AM CDT - Updated June 26 at 10:13 PM
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — This time, Neftali Feliz watched new closer Joe Nathan finish the job.
Pitching for the first time since blowing a save in Game 6 of the World Series, Feliz threw seven crisp innings in his first major league start to lead the Texas Rangers to a 1-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
Feliz, who outdueled hometown product Blake Beavan in his first trip to the mound where always dreamed of pitching, smiled widely as he accepted congratulations after Nathan's perfect ninth.
It was a much different scene than the last time Feliz was on the mound in a meaningful game. The right-hander buried his head in his hands in St. Louis after allowing a two-run triple that tied Game 6 when the Rangers were a strike away from winning the championship. The Cardinals won the World Series in seven games.
"It's a dream come true for me," Feliz said. "I was hoping for the moment to become a starter in the major leagues and finally it happened. And I thank the Rangers for making that happen. And here I am."
The Rangers could celebrate thanks to David Murphy, who had three of their seven hits and drove in the only run with an infield single in the second inning.
"Murphy swung the bat extremely well and the pitching and defense held it up," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Feliz didn't have a strikeout after the fifth inning, and relied heavily on off-speed pitches instead of the 100-mph heat he used to get 72 saves over two seasons.
Seattle had two runners on with two out in the seventh, but Feliz (1-0) got out of it when Miguel Olivo hit a comebacker to the mound. Feliz bobbled the weak grounder and recovered just in time to beat Olivo's headfirst slide at first.
Mike Adams and Nathan took over from there, closing out the four-hitter.
"I know we have a good bullpen," Feliz said.
Feliz was a shade better than Beavan (0-1), who was pitching for the first time in the ballpark where he grew up watching the Rangers.
A former first-round pick by the Rangers who went to Seattle in the Cliff Lee deal two years ago, Beavan allowed six hits in 6 1-3 innings and pitched out of trouble in the fifth and sixth. The Dallas-area high school product left with runners at first and second, but Tom Wilhelmsen escaped the jam.
He battled nerves all day as he prepared to pitch in front of family and friends.
"All day my stomach was queasy, so I could tell it wasn't any other game for me," Beavan said. "It's something I dreamed about doing ever since I was a little kid watching these games was pitching on that mound."
Like Yu Darvish a night earlier, Feliz let two of the first three hitters reach base — both on walks — but settled down much more quickly than the Japanese sensation.
Starting with a double play, Feliz retired nine consecutive batters before allowing his first hit in 59 at-bats over 19 2-3 career innings against Seattle, a two-out single by former Ranger Justin Smoak in the fourth.
Smoak singled again to start the seventh, and Jesus Montero had a one-out single to give Seattle its best threat. Smoak was on third when Olivo hit his dribbler back to Feliz.
Texas grabbed the lead in the second. Adrian Beltre led off with a double but was caught between second and third on a grounder back to Beavan. He stayed in the rundown long enough for Michael Young to get to second. Young then moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Murphy's infield hit.
"You don't see too many 1-0 games in this ballpark," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "Both pitchers were outstanding."
NOTES: Wedge benched SS Brendan Ryan for a game, saying it was over issues of "accountability." He didn't specify, but did say it wasn't solely because of an errant throw on a double-play ball that sparked the Texas rally that bailed out Darvish in his debut. Munenori Kawasaki started in Ryan's place. ... Montero was back in the Mariners' lineup as the DH after missing a game with a stomach ailment. ... Darvish and Feliz became the first back-to-back Texas pitchers to make their first major league start since Matt Harrison and Warner Madrigal did it in July 2008. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Darvish was the first pitcher in more than 100 years to win his major league debut after allowing at least four runs in the first inning.