Feldman puts Rangers back atop AL

Feldman puts Rangers back atop AL

NEW YORK -- Things were starting to unravel for Scott Feldman, and he wasn't sure why. Suddenly, he couldn't find the strike zone in the third inning on Wednesday and began to look increasingly uncomfortable on the mound with each ball he threw.

After Feldman walked the bases loaded, Alex Rodriguez stepped to the plate with one out and a chance to quickly eliminate the Rangers' three-run lead. Then, as fast as Feldman lost his command, it came back. One pitch could have swung the momentum the Yankees' way. Turns out, all it took was one pitch to put Feldman back on track.

Rodriguez bounced into a 5-5-3 double play, and Feldman settled down, allowing just two runs over 6 1/3 innings. It proved to be the turning point in the Rangers' 4-2 victory over the Yankees in front of 44,452 at Yankee Stadium. With the win, Texas (31-21) reclaimed the best record in the American League by a half-game over New York (31-22).

"That was huge for me," Feldman said of the third-inning double play. "I really lost the feel for what I was doing out there. I just totally lost the feel for it. And then I made a pretty good pitch, and the play that [third baseman] Michael [Young] made was probably the play of the game, and it really saved us."

From that point on, Feldman was nearly flawless. He retired 10 of the next 11 hitters he faced, with the only baserunner reaching on a throwing error by shortstop Elvis Andrus. After issuing those three walks in the third, Feldman did not walk another hitter.

To keep the ball on the ground, Feldman relies on his hard sinker -- a pitch that's especially important when playing in Yankee Stadium, a ballpark already garnering a reputation as a hitters' paradise. Feldman recorded 11 outs on the ground, including two double plays, and did not give up a single fly ball to the outfield.

Feldman exited with a runner on first and one out in the seventh, after allowing a solo home run to Jorge Posada earlier in the frame. Relievers C.J. Wilson and Frank Francisco combined to surrender just one hit through the next 2 2/3 innings to ensure Feldman would improve to 5-0 on the season.

"I thought he mixed well," manager Ron Washington said. "He didn't put anything where they could get the part of the bat on early. They were beating the ball into the ground, and that's when you know Feldman does have his best stuff."

The Rangers immediately jumped on Yankees starter Andy Pettitte, scoring three runs before Feldman even took the mound. Right fielder Nelson Cruz drove in the first run with a single, scoring Ian Kinsler. Two batters later, center fielder Marlon Byrd hit into a run-scoring fielder's choice. The final run of the frame crossed on an RBI hit by Chris Davis.

That was all Feldman needed to shut down arguably the best offensive team in the AL. Once he got Rodriguez to hit into the double play to end the third inning, it was smooth sailing.

"That was one of the plays of the game," Andrus said. "That was a great play for [Young]. After that, everything was cooled down. It was a bad thing for them. We kind of picked it up after that play. After that, it was our game."

Before the game, Washington stressed the importance of quickly forgetting about Tuesday night's 12-3 Rangers loss and focusing on getting back into the win column. Afterward, Washington said he was proud of his team's short memory and resilience.

A lot of that had to do with Feldman, who has become perhaps the Rangers' most consistent starter in a rotation looking for stability. He is just one of the many bright spots that have made Texas one of the biggest surprise teams in baseball.

But as far as Feldman is concerned, this is exactly where the Rangers are expected to be.

"We're playing so good as a team right now," Feldman said. "But we're really not surprised that we're winning games because we're getting great defense and timely hitting. Our pitching has been better, too."

Jared Diamond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.