MINNEAPOLIS - The quality pitching that Texas lacked for so long has finally emerged, and the result is not a coincidence.
August is almost over, and the Rangers are still right in the playoff race.
Scott Feldman turned in another strong start, holding Minnesota scoreless into the sixth inning and helping Texas keep pace in the wild-card chase with a 3-0 victory over the Twins on Saturday night.
“He was filthy,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.
First-inning RBIs by Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler put the Rangers in front right away against Carl Pavano (11-10), and for insurance Ivan Rodriguez went deep in the top of the ninth — his first homer since rejoining his old team 11 days ago.
The 14-time All-Star was also calling pitches behind the plate, while Feldman (14-4) escaped trouble and three relievers went 10 up and 10 down to preserve Texas’s 10th shutout this season and fourth this month.
“He has ability, and that ability is showing up right now,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Texas, in range of its first trip to the postseason in 10 years, is 2½ games behind Boston in the wild-card race. Boston beat Toronto 3-2. The Rangers started Saturday with the fourth-best team ERA in the league, a strange sight for a club that always seems to be offense-first.
Washington was reflecting before the game on the acquisition of two-time All-Star Scott Kazmir by the rival Angels, marveling at their big budget and wondering how a young, accomplished pitcher such as Kazmir could make it that far down the waiver wire despite his struggles this season.
Washington needn’t be envious of other staffs, though. Feldman is 10-1 with a 2.75 ERA in 11 starts on the road this year, his sixth straight victory when pitching away from Arlington to match Charlie Leibrandt’s streak for the team in 1993.
Throwing a cut fastball effectively inside and breaking several bats, Feldman ended the first two innings on double-play grounders by Joe Mauer and Brendan Harris. Harris was stranded after a leadoff double in the fifth.
Then in the sixth, after Orlando Cabrera began with a walk, Mauer was so eager to get on he tried a bunt with one strike that veered foul. He smacked a single over Feldman’s shoulder later in that at-bat, but Justin Morneau sent a weak bouncer to second base and Jason Kubel popped out to the same place on the first pitch.
Feldman scattered four singles and walked four.
“I was fortunate enough to sort of find it a little bit when I got into some tough situations,” he said. “I was able to make my pitches when I needed to.”
With runners at the corners in the sixth, Washington summoned right-hander Neftali Feliz to face Michael Cuddyer. Feliz fell behind 3-1 before throwing two Frisbee-like slow curves to strike out Cuddyer, who chucked his bat in the dirt in disgust.
Feliz has the lowest ERA in the majors this month, 0.51, among pitchers who have thrown at least 15 innings.
Cuddyer has hit Feldman well in his career, so Washington made the move and told Feliz to throw hard. Feliz and Rodriguez decided to go with four breaking balls in that at-bat.
“When I got back to the dugout, I didn’t know what I was talking about,” Washington said.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Frank Francisco picked up his 19th save in the ninth to finish another tip-the-cap kind of night for the Twins, who have scored only three runs since the fourth inning of Tuesday’s game against Baltimore.
They were shut out for the first time since May 5 against Detroit. More frustratingly, they failed to gain ground in the AL Central after the Tigers lost — staying 4½ games behind.
“You can’t worry about that,” Pavano said. “It’s just got to be a day at a time. You’ve got to worry about yourself. Obviously the standings do mean something, but if you’re losing ... it doesn’t matter.”
Pavano tough after that first frame, finishing six innings with seven strikeouts and seven baserunners. He had given up 14 runs over five innings in two previous starts against Texas this season, once while with Cleveland.
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