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Francisco steps up in familiar situation

Francisco steps up in familiar situation

ARLINGTON -- Neftali Feliz is still the Rangers' closer. Manager Ron Washington made that clear after a 4-2 victory over the White Sox.

But Feliz wasn't available on Tuesday night at Rangers Ballpark. He had pitched on Sunday and Monday and needed a night off. So Washington knew who he wanted in the ninth on Tuesday to protect a two-run lead.

He called upon closer-in-exile Frank Francisco.

"It was Frankie's night," Washington said.

Francisco delivered. Carlos Quentin popped out and both Alexei Ramirez and Mark Kotsay flied out to give Francisco his first save of the season.

"Every game is important," Francisco said. "This was just one more game."

But it was also his first ninth-inning save opportunity since the first week of the season. Francisco started the season as the Rangers' closer but was taken out of the role after blowing two saves in the first week.

Feliz was given the role and still has it. Francisco is just trying to work his way back into being the dependable late-inning reliever that he has been for much of his career with the Rangers.

He is getting there. Francisco now has a 1.29 ERA in his last seven outings, having allowed just one run on three hits and two walks in seven innings.

"I'm just locating my fastball better and my other pitches, too," Francisco said. "I'm more consistent in the strike zone. I feel way better. Everything is about location. If I locate my pitches, I'll be fine."

As far as becoming the Rangers' closer again, Francisco insisted that doesn't matter to him.

"Really, to me, whatever situation they put me in, I'm fine," Francisco said. "All I care about is helping the team win and putting a zero on the scoreboard. I never lost my confidence. I know what I can do. Whatever is in the past is in the past."

When Francisco was removed from the closer's role, Washington insisted that the veteran right-hander would still get chances to close. Washington proved that on Tuesday night.

"Frankie has the experience," Washington said. "We haven't given up on him. Tonight was his night. If tomorrow is Frankie's night, we'll put him in there. We're going to do what we need to do to get three outs. Hopefully Feliz will be ready but tonight was Frankie's night."

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

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