ARLINGTON, Texas – Maybe all it took to get Scott Feldman going this season was mentioning the Texas Rangers and their pursuit of pitching from outside the organization.
The closer the Rangers get to the trade deadline the better the veteran right-hander pitches.
Sunday night was no exception as Feldman had one of his best starts in a Texas uniform, going eight scoreless innings as the Rangers salvaged the final game of the series against Chicago with a 2-0 shutout.
Feldman’s start enables the Rangers to go into a big four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels with a little momentum despite their offensive struggles. The series begins Monday with the Rangers leading Oakland by 4 ½ games in the West and the Angels by five.
That lead wouldn’t be as big without the efforts of Feldman. While the Rangers have won just nine games this month, Feldman has three of those and his July ERA is 1.96. He has won two games on the homestand, allowing one run in 16 innings.
Who says the Rangers need to go and get another starter?
“I’m just trying to make pitches and keep things simple out there,” said Feldman, who has won his past five decisions and is penciled in to start Friday in Kansas City. “I was thankful for the opportunity to go out there and try to make pitches. The main adjustment I made was try to have a better attitude and try not to get caught up in rumors, this and that, when I’m going to pitch, when I’m not going to pitch. Just worry about when I’m out there keeping things simple.”
The easiest thing for Feldman to do Sunday was throw strikes. Feldman, who still has no complete games, needed 88 pitches to get through eight innings and 63 of those were strikes. He struck out five and didn’t walk a batter.
While he allowed seven hits, the White Sox only had more than one hit in an inning twice. Feldman allowed consecutive one-out singles in the third but got a popup and a fly out to end that threat. A leadoff single in the seventh was erased by a double play.
“He was awesome,” said outfielder David Murphy, who had three of the eight Texas hits. “He changed speeds. He worked both sides of the plate. He kept the ball down and got quick outs. You couldn’t have really asked for a better performance than we got from him tonight.”
The only thing Feldman didn’t get was a complete game, but he did match his career high with eight innings pitched. He also joined Kevin Brown as the only pitcher for the Rangers since 1988 to pitch at least eight shutout innings on 88 pitches or less.
Joe Nathan, who called Feldman the team’s stopper, completed the club’s eight shutout of the season with a perfect ninth that included stellar plays by Elvis Andrus and David Murphy.
The outing by Feldman served as a great deodorant for an offense that continues to struggle. The Rangers scored their runs on an error in the third inning and an infield chopper to the pitcher in the fifth. Texas went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position Sunday and is 0 for its past 29.
That’s the longest string of scoring futility since the 1988 Rangers strung together a 0-for-35 clip with RISP. The 1988 Rangers finished the season 70-91. The 2012 Rangers lead the American League West by 4 ½ games but know it’s going to take more than strong outings from pitchers if they’re to keep that lead.
“We’re continually working and continually fighting,” Murphy said.
That’s the same approach Feldman is taking, especially given the uncertainty of his rotation spot despite his recent hot streak.
“He will prepare for his next start and let’s just leave it at that,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “You’re seeing what I’m seeing. He pitched well. Let’s leave it at that. Let Feldman enjoy what he’s doing. If we have to make a decision we’ll make it.”