Maybe closer Neftali Feliz finally learned a lesson on Friday night.
If so, it was a hard one to learn.
Feliz continued his recent over-reliance on the fastball when given a one-run lead to protect in the ninth inning of the Rangers' eventual 14-inning 12-7 loss to Kansas City. The game only went to extra innings because Feliz, throwing nothing but fastballs, gave up a game-tying, one-out homer to Alex Gordon.
Feliz threw fastballs on each of his first 14 pitches Friday. It gave him 71 fastballs in a 73-pitch span over his last four outings. Those outings include three blown saves -- all against Kansas City.
After the ninth, however, Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux once again implored him to mix his pitches better. Feliz did. He threw three sliders in a 12-pitch 1-2-3 10th. He punctuated a strikeout -- ending a three-appearance strikeout drought -- with a slider and got a ground ball on a slider, too.
"We probably should have mixed it up more," said catcher Yorvit Torrealba. "I don't want him to just use his fastball, but it's his best pitch. Lately, it hasn't been working, though, and he falls behind in the count. When you do that, you aren't going to throw a slider at 2-0. I want him to pound fastballs early in the count and get ahead. When he does that, it makes the slider better."
When he was at his best last year, Feliz threw about 75-80 percent fastballs. By the end of the ninth inning Friday, his fastball usage for 2011 was up above 85 percent (85.1).
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