Feldman's struggles continue against Royals

Feldman's struggles continue against Royals

KANSAS CITY -- The Rangers would love Roy Oswalt.

They wish they could afford to take on his $15 million contract for this season and the $16 million for next year. Club president Nolan Ryan has talked to the Astros, the Rangers know what the asking price is and they know there is absolutely no way they can afford to trade for Oswalt until the sale of the team is completed.

That's not happening anytime soon, so Scott Feldman remains the Rangers' No. 1 starter, and his struggles continued in a 5-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.

Feldman was hit with his fifth loss after allowing four runs in 6 2/3 innings. The right-hander is now 2-5 with a 5.84 ERA on the season, including an ERA of 5.32 over his past three starts.

"I think my last three starts have been better, but I've still got to get better," Feldman said. "I want to win every time I go out there and pitch well. Losing today or any day is frustrating."

Manager Ron Washington, as was the case on Tuesday night with Rich Harden, liked what he saw from Feldman. He sees improvement even if the numbers don't stand out.

"He's getting better," Washington said. "The last time out [13-7 win over Baltimore last Thursday] he fought through some adversity. This time he was battling. He had his sinker and he used it on both sides of the plate. He was getting in on righties and he was getting in on some lefties. We just didn't put enough runs on the board."

Feldman allowed seven hits, hit two batters, walked one and did not strike out a batter. It was the longest outing by a Rangers pitcher without a strikeout since Vicente Padilla went seven innings without fanning anybody on July 20, 2008, in Minnesota.

In two games in Kansas City, Feldman and Harden have combined to pitch 12 innings and allowed 10 runs, nine earned, on 14 hits and three walks. But both times Washington singled them out for praise despite what appears to be mediocre at best pitching lines.

"Compared to where they were to where they are now ... if they keep pitching like that, they'll win ballgames," Washington said. "You've got compare it to where they were."

Still, when talking about your No. 1 and No. 2 starters ...

"No doubt about it, we'd like to see them get on a little roll," Washington. "We'd like to see them knock off three or four in a row. But it's a process."

Feldman was outpitched by Luke Hochevar, the Royals right-hander who allowed two runs on six hits in eight innings. He walked none and struck out four before Joakinm Soria finished it off in the ninth.

"It was tough for anybody to get hits off Hochevar today," Washington said. "He had a good changeup, he had a good curveball, he mixed his pitches and hit his spots. His changeup was the key pitch, especially in tough situations. He really relied on his changeup."

The Rangers had one good shot to get him and that was in the sixth. With one out, Elvis Andrus reached on a single and scored on a triple by Michael Young -- the 44th of his career, tying him with Ruben Sierra for most in club history -- to knot the score at 2. The Rangers just couldn't get the lead. Ian Kinsler grounded out to third and Vladimir Guerrero grounded to short, leaving Young at third.

What's worse, Feldman couldn't keep it tied even though he appeared to be on a pretty good roll. He had retired nine straight hitters before Billy Butler led off the bottom of the inning. Feldman got behind in the count immediately with two straight balls before Butler, a right-handed hitter, belted a 2-1 cut fastball over the left-field wall for a home run.

"He's a good pitcher," Butler said. "He had a great year last year, but I just feel like he's struggling right now. He's given me fits in the past, but I slowed him down today and made him come to me. I didn't swing at the pitches he wanted me to and I had good results."

The cut fastball and the changeup are the pitches that Feldman is missing. Feldman's best pitch is his sinker, but he became a big winner last year when he developed the cut fastball and the changeup to go with it. The cut fastball was erratic on Wednesday and the changeup was non-existent.

"It's fair to say that," Washington said. "Inconsistency has been the key. He threw a couple of pretty good [cut fastballs] but he's still trying to find the consistency. Today was a good step in that direction."

The Rangers need more steps taken from their top two starters. Oswalt is not going to be riding to their rescue.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.