October 11, 2011
The main likelihood, however, is that the game wouldn't have even gotten that far without the bullpen efforts of Rangers reliever Scott Feldman(notes). The righthander pitched 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, allowing the Tigers only one hit and no walks after starter Derek Holland(notes) couldn't escape the third inning. The performance comes after he threw three scoreless innings of relief after C.J. Wilson(notes) wilted in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Not bad for a guy who pitched only 32 innings in the regular season thanks to microfracture surgery and has accepted a relief role without hesitation so the Rangers have a better shot at winning their first World Series title.
"The plan was (Feldman) would be a depth guy and could help us in long relief too down the stretch, Texas assistant GM Thad Levine told ESPN Dallas. "He went from off the radar to on the radar and that's a credit to how he performed and the work he put in."
It's a credit to Feldman that he joined some elite company with Monday's effort. According to Baseball Reference's Play-Index, Feldman is the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez(notes) in 1999 to throw at least four scoreless innings of relief in his team's postseason victory. Seattle's Jeff Nelson in the 1995 ALDS is the only other pitcher to record the feat in the last 20 years.
There are some differences, of course, between Feldman's appearance and the famous one that Martinez put together in a 12-8 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS. Martinez pitched two more innings, recorded eight strikeouts (four more than Feldman) and did not allow a single hit to a lineup that had already posted eight runs against Bret Saberhagen and Derek Lowe(notes). Martinez had also only pitched four innings in Game 1 after back problems forced him to the dugout. It also clinched a postseason series, where Feldman and Texas merely took a 2-0 series lead.
But like Martinez, Feldman guided and steadied his team in a time when things might have quickly gotten out of hand. If he doesn't come out and shut the Tigers down, we'd be reading different headlines this morning — not to mention maybe looking at an entirely different series.