Rua lifts Rangers with first career home run
Left fielder hits go-ahead shot off Angels reliever Street in ninth inning
ANAHEIM -- There was Nick Tepesch showing some serious big league toughness against the best lineup in the American League. There was Ryan Rua hanging tough with two strikes against a great closer and hitting his first Major League home run in the top of the ninth.
Then there was Neftali Feliz, striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth -- including his old nemesis David Freese -- to give the Rangers a 2-1 victory over the Angels on Sunday afternoon.
Feliz was bringing it with the effort and intensity that he showed when he was the Rangers' closer in 2010-11 before Tommy John surgery. Hitting 95-97 miles per hour on the radar gun, Feliz recorded his 11th save. He hasn't allowed a run since Aug. 20.
"He's back," interim manager Tim Bogar said after the Rangers finished taking two of three from the Angels while going 5-1 on their last road trip and winning for the eighth time in their last nine games.
There are some good things coming out of the Rangers' late-September surge beyond the window-dressing items of no longer having the worst record in baseball or being in jeopardy of losing 100 games. Several of those things were on display Sunday afternoon in a hard-fought game against a team that has won the division but still is going hard after home-field advantage in the playoffs.
One is Feliz continuing to convince the Rangers that he will be their closer next year. The Rangers have much work to do, but trying to address their closer situation is not on the list. If Feliz takes care of himself this winter, the Rangers have their closer.
"That's my job," Feliz said. "I feel like I'm 100 percent. I feel like I have a lot of life in my arm. The more I throw, the better I feel."
Another good sign is what Tepesch is showing on the mound. He didn't get the win but he did hold the Angels to one run in seven innings. He is only 2-3 in his last nine starts but with a 3.29 ERA and opponents hitting .260 off him. The Angels managed just four hits and two walks -- both intentional -- while Tepesch struck out three.
"I thought he did a great job using his fastball," Bogar said. "I like how aggressive he was with it. He got to play the offspeed stuff off it, but the key to his outing was his fastball."
Tepesch also didn't let himself get rattled in the first inning after hitting Mike Trout with a pitch. Tepesch also hit Trout with a pitch in Arlington earlier this month. This time Trout reacted angrily before stomping down to first base, but Tepesch didn't let it fluster him. He reacted by getting Albert Pujols on a fly to center and Howie Kendrick on a grounder to third.
"Obviously I'm not trying to hit him in that situation," Tepesch said. "You make a bad pitch, you try to erase it and flush it out and go after the next guy."
Tepesch did that in his pitching duel against the parade of Angels relievers being used to fill Garrett Richards' spot in the rotation. He left with the game tied at 1 as both teams scratched out a run in the sixth.
"I thought the outing was pretty good," Tepesch said. "You want to finish strong, but I'm trying to build off the outing before, learn from my mistakes and the good things and carry them into the next game."
The other good sign from Sunday is another young hitter shaking off a tough afternoon and delivering against a tough pitcher in a tough situation. Rua was 0-for-3 when he stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth inning and the score still tied.
"They were pounding me inside pretty much the whole game and I didn't take too many good swings," Rua said. "I was just trying to be short and quick on a pitch inside."
Street got ahead 1-2 in the count and then threw a tough slider that Rua fouled off. Then he threw a sinker and Rua hit it over the left-field wall.
"Rua's pitch was not an executed pitch, and that's the big leagues," Street said. "That's sometimes what happens."
That left it to Feliz to strike out the side in the ninth. That included Freese, who hit the game-tying triple in the ninth inning back in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. That's a distant memory for Feliz.
The Rangers like what they see now, not only from him but in other key areas on Sunday afternoon.