The Rangers' Alexi Ogando threw just 13 pitches while working around one hit in a scoreless sixth inning against the Rays on Saturday, but manager Ron Washington went with his regular seventh-inning man, Koji Uehara, in the next frame. That backfired when Evan Longoria's three-run homer knocked Uehara to the showers before he could record an out, after Texas' lead had been reduced to one run.
"Well, you know, he has done that before, and he was very good at it," Washington said of Ogando's ability to go long. "But when we traded for Mike Adams and Uehara, we traded for them for those situations. Uehara just didn't get the job done tonight."
After Uehara exited, the three Rangers pitchers who followed -- including closer Neftali Feliz -- were able to temper a situation ripe for second-guessing as Texas secured Game 2 of the American League Division Series, 8-6.
"I was ready. Of course I was ready to pitch a little bit more," Ogando said. "Because I'm coming from being a starter, I could go not only two innings, if not three or four innings, but that's their decision."
Uehara was stellar in September, letting up one run in 7 1/3 innings and 10 appearances. Most of the season wasn't much different: The most runs he allowed in an appearance were two, and that happened only twice.
Saturday's trouble was keyed by a leadoff walk to Desmond Jennings, on four straight balls after Uehara was head 0-2. That was followed by a B.J. Upton single, and the home run to Longoria came on an 0-1 fastball.
"Walking the first hitter cost me a lot," Uehara said. "I have no excuse. I hope I will get another chance."
Darren Oliver, Adams and Feliz were able to stave off any comeback from the Rays from there, allowing just one baserunner among them in the final three frames. Feliz -- he of six straight saves in as many appearances to end the regular season -- gave up a one-out walk to Upton in the ninth, facing the same portion of the lineup that doomed Uehara, the top.
The final two outs came on flies off the bats of Longoria and Ben Zobrist. It was that second out, though -- with Longoria as hot as he's been -- where the fruit of a season-long effort for Feliz was apparent. He retired Longoria on a fly to center using not his fastball, but his slider.
"Everybody's been sitting on my fastball," Feliz said. "I know I have to change speeds, and that's what I did there."