For much of 2014, the moves to plug the holes on the Texas Rangers’ depleted pitching staff have usually resulted in the team taking on more water.
For one night, at least, a spot start for right-handed veteran Jerome Williams and former closer Neftali Feliz’s return to his old role turned into solid stopgap measures.
The Rangers defeated the first-place Oakland A’s 4-1 in front of an announced crowd of 35,582 at Globe Life Park.
Feliz, in his first save opportunity since his infamous blown save in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, worked out of a self-made jam in the ninth to record his first save since Game 5 of the 2011 Series.
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The win snapped an eight-game home losing streak for the Rangers (41-62) and a six-game losing streak to Oakland (63-39), which has the best record in the big leagues.
“He got it done,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Feliz. “I’m more than certain the more he gets the ball, the easier it will probably come.
“I’m not going to say ‘easy’ in the sense that he’s going to make it easy, but he might’ve had some nerves out there tonight, but he’s familiar with the role. We’ll just keep giving him the ball and see where it goes.”
Feliz’s heroics, which were enthusiastically applauded by Rangers fans after he recorded the final two outs with two runners on, were set up by, arguably, an even more improbable performance from Williams (2-4).
The 32-year-old veteran held the A’s to one run on five hits in six innings, giving the Rangers their sixth quality start in the month of July.
Both of his wins in 2014 have come against the A’s.
“I don’t think I have to prove anything to anybody,” Williams said. “I just have to go out there and help this team.”
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead on J.P. Arencibia’s single to the left side in the second inning, which scored Jim Adduci, who led off with a double off the base of the wall in center field.
The Rangers made it 2-0 in the third when Elvis Andrus tripled to right-center field with two outs and Alex Rios followed with a single through the left side.
The A’s cut the lead to 2-1 after two singles to start the sixth against Williams.
Yoenis Cespedes’ squibber through the hole between shortstop and third base scored the run, but Adduci threw out John Jaso trying to reach third on the play.
Cespedes, who moved to second on Adduci’s throw, stole third, but Williams forced a flyout to center to end the inning and preserve the 2-1 lead.
The Rangers added two more runs in the bottom of the inning as Andrus led off with a single and Rios walked against A’s starter Jason Hammel.
Andrus scored on Adrian Beltre’s single and Rios came home on Adduci’s sacrifice fly.
Hammel was charged with four runs (three earned) on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.
“That was huge for everyone’s confidence,” Washington said. “[Oakland] got back in the game 2-1. And we went back out there and put something together offensively. Tonight we were able to do what we needed to do when we created opportunities for ourselves.”
Williams is the 13th starting pitcher for the Rangers in 2014, which is tied with Colorado for the major league lead. He’s the 31st pitcher for the club in 2014, including position players Mitch Moreland and Chris Gimenez, which is a Rangers record.
Before Friday night, Williams’ season-high for innings was four in relief on May 4 with the Houston Astros. He said the heat was getting to him when the A’s struck for two singles to start the sixth inning.
“I wanted to finish it no matter what,” Williams said. “But I think this heat was kind of kicking my butt. I’m not used to it. I felt fine out there and I really wanted to finish the sixth.”