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Hey, isn't that Neftali Feliz?! Rangers rookie ain't rusty, gets save

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Three games into the World Series, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington finally let his best relief pitcher leave the bullpen.

Neftali Feliz(notes) pitched without rust, too, putting down the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night to cap a 4-2 victory in Game 3 and become the second-youngest pitcher in history to record a save in the Series.

Feliz blew away the Giants with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, throwing 10 of 13 pitches for strikes, including 12 fastballs that averaged 98 mph.

At 22 years and 181 days old, Feliz trails only Bob Welch (21 years, 342 days) of the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers as youngest to ever save a Series game.

Not bad for a kid who hadn't been used since the Rangers clinched the AL pennant on Oct. 22.

Washington could have gone to his closer even sooner in Game 3 — with two outs in the eighth against Buster Posey(notes) when he represented the tying run — but Feliz warmed up too late.

Instead, submariner Darren O'Day(notes) got the job done when Posey hit a grounder to short.

"I had O'Day ready for Posey. So I brought him in for Posey," [Washington said.] "He got me the ground ball, got out the inning and gave the ball to Feliz."

At the time, though, millions of armchair managers probably wondered why Feliz wasn't out there in the eighth.

But Washington's managing pattern has been consistently curious for the entire postseason regarding Feliz.

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• He doesn't use the closer when trailing to try and keep the score close.

• He doesn't use the closer for more than three outs, instead relying on the various available Darrens as a bridge to the ninth.

• And that's that.

And here the Rangers are, three victories from a championship, so it's hard to argue too vociferously.

Feliz sure impressed Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who hasn't hesitated in using his own closer for more than three outs.

"He had great stuff," [Bochy said.] "I mean, he hadn't pitched in a while, and he had good command, too. It was an impressive outing for him. You've got a guy out there throwing 98, 99 with command, the kid did a great job. He's had a great year, and we know how good his stuff is, and he showed it tonight."

If the Rangers come back to win the Series, the criticism of Washington will look misguided, probably foolish, to some. But if Washington tries similar moves with Feliz in Games 4, 5, 6 or 7 and they cost Texas, the complaints will have been more than just hindsight.

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