Pudge guides Rangers to shutout

Pudge guides Rangers to shutout

MINNEAPOLIS -- Sixteen years ago, Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy threw a fit in the visiting clubhouse at the Metrodome that could be heard well beyond his office walls. He screamed, cussed, kicked things and finally threw a hot potato through a mirror.

He wasn't happy with catcher Ivan Rodriguez and the Rangers' pitch-calling after a particularly tough loss to the Twins.

Sixteen years later, after a 3-0 victory over the Twins on Saturday night, a few Rangers had a different description of Rodriguez's work behind the plate.

"Awesome," reliever C.J. Wilson said.

"He did a great job," manager Ron Washington said.

And finally there was Scott Feldman, who pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings to extend his winning streak to five straight and keep the Rangers 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox for the American League Wild Card.

"I think it's great to throw to Pudge," said Feldman, now 14-4 with a 3.72 ERA. "He's a Hall of Famer. He obviously knows the game and knows the hitters. I feel pretty confident going with what he puts down. He's got so much experience and credibility, it takes the thinking out of it and you can focus on executing pitches."

Four Rangers pitchers did that in holding the Twins to four hits and combining for the staff's 10th shutout of the season, the most in the American League. The Rangers scored two in the first off Twins starter Carl Pavano and Rodriguez, besides his work behind the plate, added a ninth-inning home run.

It was his ninth of the season but first with the Rangers since he was acquired from the Astros two weeks ago. But it was his work behind the plate -- especially in one crucial situation with rookie Neftali Feliz -- that proved big for the Rangers.

"Those guys really did a great job," Rodriguez said. "Feldman battled and gave us five good innings. He had to work hard all day."

Feldman, who allowed four hits and walked four, had baserunners on in every inning, but the Twins were 0-for-7 off him with runners in scoring position. Feldman also induced two inning-ending double-play grounders started by shortstop Omar Vizquel. The Rangers defense leads the Majors with 141 double plays turned.

"It was kind of a struggle," Feldman said. "I had trouble locating my pitches but was able to find it in some tough spots. It would have been nice to mix in a couple of 1-2-3 innings in there and make it easier on myself and the bullpen. But the bottom line is we won."

Washington finally felt he had gone long enough with Feldman in the sixth. Orlando Cabrera led off with a walk and Joe Mauer singled to center. Feldman got Justin Morneau to force Mauer with a grounder to second and then got Jason Kubel to pop out.

That brought up Cuddyer, who was 1-for-2 off Feldman in the game and 7-for-13 with two home runs off him in his career. Washington decided it was time for Feliz.

"I didn't want all Feldman's hard work to go down the drain and Cuddyer is the one guy who swings the bat well off him," Washington said. "I didn't want to see Feldman lose the game over one hitter."

One hitter showed how far Rodriguez has come since Kennedy's infamous rant 16 years ago. Washington told Rodriguez and Feliz to go after Cuddyer with fastballs. Watching Feliz warm up, Cuddyer was thinking the same way.

Rodriguez had other ideas. Feliz started Cuddyer with two curves, one for a strike and another for a ball. Two fastballs missed and it was 3-and-1. Rodriguez then called for first a slider and then a curve. Cuddyer swung and missed at both. Inning over.

"I was looking for a fastball and got 3-1 curveball, 3-2 curveball," Cuddyer said in an unknown tribute to the Rangers catcher. "[Feliz] only threw 90 [mph] tonight. It's not like he was blowing it by anybody. I was just too aggressive and it was a bad at-bat."

Or a good one for the Rangers catcher.

"You got a guy who throws 100 miles per hour, it's got to be on your mind," Rodriguez said. "You've got to move the ball around and change speeds. That's what I like to do."

The Twins did not have another baserunner the rest of the night. Feliz, Wilson and Frank Francisco each set down the side in order in the final three innings. Francisco struck out the side in the ninth for his 19th save.

"Tonight, we couldn't come up with any runs," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Most of that was due to their pitching staff throwing the living tar out of the ball over there. They ran some pretty good ones at us."

The catcher is pretty good, too.

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