Ron Washington has used Neftali Feliz in a close game just once all postseason

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Last night I criticized Ron Washington for allowing a two-run deficit to turn into a blowout loss while closer Neftali Feliz sat in the bullpen unused, but it was far from the first time the Rangers’ manager has failed to get his best reliever into a close game.

In fact, Game 3 of the ALDS versus the Rays is the only time this entire postseason that Washington has actually brought Feliz into a close game.

Seriously.

Here are the circumstances of Feliz’s other four playoff appearances:

• Game 1 of the ALDS: He pitched the ninth inning with a four-run lead.

• Game 2 of the ALCS: He pitched the ninth inning with a five-run lead.

• Game 3 of the ALCS: He pitched the ninth inning with an eight-run lead.

• Game 6 of the ALCS: He pitched the ninth inning with a five-run lead.

Feliz was one of the elite relievers in baseball this season, posting a 2.73 ERA, .176 opponents’ batting average, and 71/18 K/BB ratio in 69 innings. Yet because Washington is focused on managing his bullpen around the save statistic Feliz has pitched in just five games all postseason and four of those appearances came when the Rangers had a lead of at least four runs.

And there have certainly been no shortage of key late-game spots where Washington could have called on Feliz, beginning with the eerily similar eighth-inning bullpen implosions in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Yankees and Game 2 of the World Series last night. In both of those vital situations Feliz went unused and the Rangers let games slip away while Washington turned to just about every other reliever in the bullpen.

Texas has played 14 playoff games and Feliz has faced a grand total of 20 batters, just four of which came in a close game. To put that ridiculous usage into some context, consider that Darren Oliver has faced 32 batters while appearing three more times than Feliz. Heck, even Darren O’Day (19 batters faced) and Alexi Ogando (18 batters faced) have been used nearly as much and in more crucial situations than Feliz.

Instead of doing everything he possibly can to save the Rangers’ season Washington has been more focused on holding his best reliever back for so-called “save” situations that may never arrive.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).