Part of the problem with losing a game like this is that when you're on the road, and you have Dave Bush going, and you go into the 8th inning having allowed just two runs, you feel like you've been touched by the fiery hot breath of the Luck Dragon. You were mentally prepared to need to score 7 or 8 to win, and instead, you patched together a solid pitching performance where one wasn't expected, and to lose the game thus feels like spitting in the face of fate, like sending a gift horse to the glue factory.
And the performance by the offense reeks of missed opportunity. Max Scherzer didn't pitch well, racked up a huge pitch count, but still was able to escape with just two runs allowed in 6 innings. Texas got 12 runners on base, stole three bases, advanced on three Tiger wild pitches, yet only registered two runs. This was due in part to Texas getting just one extra base hit, and in part due to a miserable performance by the offense with runners in scoring position.
Thus, it seems almost fitting that the Tigers should end up with a walk-off win on a home run by Detroit's ninth place hitter, against one of the Rangers' setup men while Neftali Feliz languished in the bullpen.
For what it is worth, I don't have a problem with Feliz not pitching in the 9th inning. You had the bottom of the Tiger lineup due up, you had one of your better relievers on the mound and pitching well, and you had burned through much the rest of the pen before the 9th inning.
If you lift Oliver for Feliz so that Neftali can pitch the 9th, then you are left with just two pitchers behind Feliz: Darren O'Day, who struggled this spring and in his last two outings, including the day before when he picked up the loss in the 9th inning against Detroit, and Pedro Strop, who also pitched the day before. Neither is likely to give you more than one inning.
If you go to Feliz in the 9th, you are likely committing to him pitching two innings. You are hoping he has a quick bottom of the 9th, because if he gets to 20 or more pitches, it is going to be pushing it to have him go back out for the bottom of the 10th. And if Texas doesn't score in the top of the 10th, you're in a situation where you are going to run out of pitchers very soon.
Leaving Neftali Feliz in the bullpen while Darren O'Day faced Miguel Cabrera yesterday with the bases loaded and two outs in the 9th inning of a tie game was a huge mistake. Leaving Feliz in the bullpen today, though, given all the circumstances, I have a hard time disagreeing with.
And even having sat the past two games, Feliz is on pace to appear in 81 games, a pretty heavy workload. So it is hard to say that he's sitting too much, even if you want to argue about when he's being used.
The biggest problem today from a run prevention standpoint is that Mark Lowe struggled yet again. In September of 2010, there were reports that Lowe was looking terrific in Arizona, and the Rangers activated him late in the year in the hopes that he could contribute on the playoff roster.
Well, Lowe was awful in two outings at the end of the 2010 season. He was awful in the playoffs. He was awful in spring training. And he's been awful so far this year.
In the regular season and the playoffs, Lowe has appeared 8 times as a Ranger. He's allowed runs in 6 of those 8 appearances. He's gone 6 1/3 innings and allowed 13 runs.
At this point, I don't see how you can continue running him out there, nor can I see how you can justify a 3 man bench, and the limitations that places on your manager, in order to keep Lowe in the bullpen. Lowe can be optioned to AAA, and he should be sent down once Dave Bush is rested enough to be able to pitch in long relief again. Taylor Teagarden, Endy Chavez, or Craig Gentry would be a more worthwhile use of a roster spot at this point.
So yeah...this was a disappointing game. But the Rangers are 3-3 on the road trip at this point, and are 9-3 on the year.
I can't complain. I can lament the missed opportunity, but I can't complain.