ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Texas Rangers closer Neftali Feliz put the poor performances earlier this week behind him and answered his manager's challenge.
Feliz pitched a perfect ninth for his 21st save, two nights after his fifth blown save of the season, and helped starter Matt Harrison cap his unbeaten July as the Rangers beat Minnesota 4-1 Thursday night for a series split.
"What happened last time I always forget it. I never gave it a thought to look back on what happened. I just came in 100 percent sure I had to do my job and do my best," Feliz said through a translator. "That's what I think. I never worry about last time."
The AL West-leading Rangers had lost two straight against Minnesota after opening the series with a 20-6 win Monday night when they had the most runs and hits (27) in the majors this season.
Feliz gave up two runs in the ninth inning Tuesday night in the Rangers' 9-8 loss. In the blowout opener, Feliz gave up a run in the ninth when he was in to get some work after not pitching for a week.
In the aftermath Tuesday night's blown save, manager Ron Washington said he wanted to see more fire from Feliz. The hard-throwing right-hander already has two more blown opportunities than all of last season, when he set a major league rookie record with 40 saves as the Rangers went to their first World Series.
On Thursday night, Feliz struck out Jim Thome and got Danny Valencia on a popup before Delmon Young grounded out to end the game.
"He was good, he threw the ball well, threw it over the plate," Washington said. "He probably responded because he's a competitor. I don't think I had much to do with it, because I'm not the one out there toeing the rubber trying to get outs."
Harrison (9-7) allowed one run over 7 1-3 innings with two strikeouts and a walk. The left-hander won all three of his decisions in his five starts this month with a 2.04 ERA.
Yoshinori Tateyama and Arthur Rhodes retired the only batters they each faced before Feliz took over.
"Harry got us as deep as he could get us, and we needed them right there," Washington said. "They got us an opportunity to give the ball to Nefty."
Michael Young and Chris Davis had RBI singles early that put Texas ahead to stay. The Rangers maintained their two-game division lead over the Los Angeles Angels, who won earlier Thursday at Detroit.
Baker (8-6) struck out four with no walks while allowing two runs over seven innings in his second start since returning from the disabled list because of a right flexor strain. The right-hander was 6-1 with a 1.50 ERA his previous seven starts, including five scoreless innings in his return Saturday against Detroit.
The Twins pulled him after 97 pitches.
"If I felt great, I would have asked to go back out there. But given the situation, we're still trying to be smart about this. Given the conditions, I was pretty content with where I was at," Baker said. "You're at that threshold. To throw any more, I don't know if that would have been beneficial. You know yourself well enough to know your limits."
Josh Hamilton had three hits for Texas, including a two-out triple in the ninth. Young was intentionally walked before Nelson Cruz reached on a throwing error by third baseman Valencia that allowed Hamilton to score. Mitch Moreland then had an RBI single.
Harrison was pulled with one out in the eighth when he issued his first walk, to Joe Mauer. He finished July with a 2.04 ERA.
Tateyama struck out Michael Cuddyer, who already had two hits in the game and was hitting .500 (14 for 28) against the Rangers this season. Rhodes then struck out Jason Kubel, who had homered off the left-hander in the series.
Elvis Andrus and Hamilton had consecutive singles to start the Texas fourth. Young drove Andrus home with a single.
Yorvit Torrealba had a leadoff double in the Texas fifth and scored when Davis blooped a high popup that dropped in short left-field near the line for a single. That made it 2-0.
Notes: Minnesota won the season series 5-3, and is 18-10 against Texas since the start of the 2009 season. ... Twins CF Denard Span, out since June 9 with a concussion, continues rehab at Triple-A. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Span will need several full games before he is ready to be activated. ... On the 17th anniversary of Kenny Rogers' perfect game at Rangers Ballpark, former Texas CF Rusty Greer had an autograph session with fans. Greer made a diving catch to start the ninth inning, then caught the final out in the only perfect game in franchise history. ... The Twins took batting practice indoors rather than endure another 100-degree session outside. ... Umpires Mike Winters, Mike Everitt, Chris Guccione and Mike Muchlinksi visited Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. It was the fourth of 12 scheduled visits nationwide as part of the UMPS CARE Charities BLUE for Kids program
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved