Game 15 Preview: Rangers at Tigers

Apr 15, 2011; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Texas Rangers pitcher Neftali Feliz (30) looks into his glove prior to being pulled from the game during the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Rangers defeated the Twins 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers

Time/Place: 1:00 p.m./7:00 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation Blog: Lone Star Ball

Media:

Game 1 Pitching Matchup: Matt Harrison (2-0, 0.64 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello (1-0, 1.84 ERA)

To read yesterday's preview, click here.

Game 2 Pitching Matchup: Neftali Feliz (1-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander

Today, the irresistible force meets the immovable object. Verlander has been what I like to call "stupid good" in innings 1-8 this season. The only issue, as you're well aware, has been the 9th inning. He is 6-2 in 9 career starts against the Rangers with a 2.31 ERA in 58 1/3 innings.

To many casual observers, the decision to move Feliz from the bullpen into the rotation was puzzling (though not baseless, as he was a starter in the minors). Feliz racked up 76 combined saves in 2010 and 2011, and Alexi Ogando put together a 13-8 record as a starter in 2011. Instead, the Rangers brass decided to swap the two -- as well as bring in Joe Nathan to be their closer -- a decision that is paying huge dividends early on. Ogando has continued the bullpen dominance that he displayed during the 2011 postseason, and Feliz's first two starts have both resulted in Ranger victories.

In his first couple starts, Feliz has scaled down his fastball velocity, hovering in the 93-95 mph range. He was stellar in his first start against the Seattle Mariners, throwing 7 shutout innings. He struggled somewhat in his last start against Minnesota, giving up 3 earned runs in 5+ innings of work (he faced 3 batters in the 6th and didn't get anyone out); more indicative of his struggles was the fact that he threw 93 pitches in those 5 innings. Control was an issue for Feliz at times. He only walked two hitters, but seemed to lose hold of the ball on multiple occasions. He also left the ball out over the plate quite a bit in the 5th and 6th innings, and the Twins were able to take advantage.

Random Baseless Speculation

Feliz has given up one home run so far this year. The hitter? Former Tiger Clete Thomas. Lloyd McClendon may know secrets that the rest of the American League does not as of yet.

Outlook

There are few things more comforting these days than knowing that the MVP is on the mound. Worry if you must about his last start, but Verlander has proven throughout his career that he is simply cut from a different cloth when it comes to pitch counts and things of that nature. If there is anyone in baseball that can slow down Texas' lineup right now, it's him.

Prediction

There will be more than 9 innings of baseball played at Comerica Park today.

Gameday Reading:

Texas Rangers Excorcise Target Field Demons - SB Nation Dallas, Robbie Griffin
Game recap of Feliz's last start in Minnesota. Apparently it was a little rainy and wet, which is weird because the Minnesota announcers just said the words "rain starting to fall here" as I went to type "it doesn't look wet there at all" (yes, I'm watching the game right now).

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