Where Was Neftali Feliz?

The Yankees entered the eighth inning Friday night with only a 4.1 percent chance of winning.

The Rangers decided to allow C.J. Wilson to continue pitching in the eighth. The inning started off with a Brett Gardner infield single, and then Derek Jeter doubled, scoring Gardner. Wilson was pulled for Darren Oliver, who walked both Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira to load the bases.

The Rangers then brought in Darren O’Day to face Alex Rodriguez. O’Day threw one pitch, which Rodriguez hit past third baseman Michael Young into left field. Both Jeter and Swisher scored on the play. Next, Clay Rapada was brought in to face Robinson Cano. On Rapada’s first and only pitch, Cano hit a single to center field, allowing Teixeira to tie the game.

The Rangers went to the ‘pen again for Derek Holland, who allowed Marcus Thames to single, scoring Rodriguez. The Yankees finally took the lead for the first time in the game, 6-5. All of the five runs scored in the eighth were with no outs. Holland finally was able to get three outs before any more damage was done. The chances of the Yankees winning the game soared from 4.1 percent to 67.5 percent by the end of the inning.

The Rangers went through four relievers in the eighth, and they opted to leave Neftali Feliz, their best reliever, sitting in the bullpen. The decision to not use Feliz at any time during the eighth inning will come back to haunt the Rangers. Once it was decided that Wilson could not go any farther, the Rangers should have brought in Feliz, for a couple of reasons.

First, the heart of the Yankees’ lineup — Swisher, Teixeira and Rodriguez — was due up. The Rangers should have looked at using their strongest pitcher against the Yankees’ strongest hitters. Also, the situation could not have been any more important: a runner on second, no outs. Instead, Feliz was being saved for the ninth inning to save the game. That save would never come, and four other relievers were brought in who didn’t record a single out until a 5-1 lead turned into a 6-5 deficit.

The Rangers entered the eighth inning with a great chance of winning, but everything fell apart. This a perfect example of why managers should sometimes think outside the box and use their closers when the game is on the line.




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Jeff writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first season in Tout Wars, he won the H2H league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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