Plus Washington also had an experienced closer right behind him. It had been awhile for Chris Ray, but he got the job done in getting the final two outs in the Rangers' 4-3 victory over the Brewers on Saturday night. Ray earned his 50th career save, but his first since July 15, 2007, when he was the Orioles closer.
The Rangers led, 4-1, going into the ninth, but the Brewers scored two and had two on with two outs before Ray got Prince Fielder to fly out to end the game.
"It was different," Ray said. "But Neftali has picked me up a couple of times with runners on base. You've got to be able to rely on each other down there in the bullpen."
Ray was the Orioles' closer in 2006-07 before he was shut down by elbow surgery. The Rangers acquired him this offseason as a setup reliever, and this was the first time they used him in a ninth-inning save opportunity.
"He had Chris Ray hot, and we decided to use him," Washington said. "We know he's done it before, so we knew the situation wasn't going to cause him a problem."
Rangers starter Scott Feldman threw six scoreless innings, and Darren Oliver added one more in the seventh. The Rangers led, 4-0, going into the bottom of the eighth before doubles by Rickie Weeks and Ryan Braun off Frank Francisco gave the Brewers a run.
That left Feliz to face the bottom of the Brewers' order. Feliz, who has 16 saves but was pitching for only the second time in eight days, just couldn't get it done.
"He's been doing pretty well," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "But you've got to give our guys credit, too. We were down by three runs. Some patient at-bats at the bottom of the lineup ... so we put ourselves in position, we just didn't finish it off."
Feliz got Jim Edmonds to ground out to start the inning, but Jonathan Lucroy singled and Alcides Escobar and pinch-hitter Joe Inglett drew walks to load the bases.
Weeks then lined a single to right to score one run, and that's when Washington brought in Ray. He had Corey Hart, who leads the National League in home runs, waiting for him.
"I was trying to get him to hit the ball on the ground," Ray said. "Just pound the zone low and get a ground ball. He was looking to swing the bat. Guys who hit like that aren't looking for a walk."
Hart hit a high chopper to third baseman Michael Young, and the Rangers got a force at second. But the relay to first was too late. A run scored, and the Brewers still had runners at the corners.
"I'll take an out for a run right there," Ray said.
That brought up Fielder. Ray, with a base to play with, could have pitched around him and taken his chances with Braun, who was on deck. But Ray went after him with a combination of fastball and curve.
"We weren't going to give him a cookie, but with Chris' stuff, we were attacking him aggressively," catcher Matt Treanor said. "Chris wanted to go after him."
"We know he can hit the fastball, so that's why I mixed in some curves," Ray said. "I threw him a curve on 3-and-1 and 3-and-2. I felt I had slowed his bat up enough to throw him a fastball. He was right on it but popped it up."
Fielder did. He popped it up to left field, and Josh Hamilton put it away to end the game.