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.
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.