The last image of Texas Rangers closer Neftali Feliz in 2011 is of the thick-chested right-hander walking off the mound, head down, on a slow and painful journey to the dugout, understanding that he had failed to nail down the most important save of his young career and of his club's season.
David Freese's two-out, two-strike, two-run triple in the bottom of the ninth tied Game 6 at 7-7, a mind-spinning marathon that the St. Louis Cardinals eventually won in 11 innings to tie the World Series.
"I put it where I wanted it," Feliz said said through a translator. "He made good contact and that's what happened."
The Cardinals captured the championship in Friday's Game 7. Feliz never got a chance to make amends.
"Of course, I feel bad what happened [in Game 6]. We were so close and I didn't get it done," Feliz said. "For me, it's my second year in the majors so I know I will have a chance later and will try to prepare for next time. I know there will be another chance for me to get the job done."
Feliz lived on the edge throughout the postseason (eight walks and a hit batter to just five hits) and was typically wild upon entering the game. Through six save opportunities he settled down enough to secure all six saves until fateful Game 6. After Feliz blew the ninth-inning lead, manager Ron Washington didn't allow Feliz to return for the 10th for a second shot at a save after Josh Hamilton provided a 9-7 lead with a two-run homer in the top of the inning.
"That's not my decision, it is not up to me," Feliz said. "It is the manager's decision."
Feliz had a rocky season, getting off to a slow start when it seemed he had little trust in his offspeed pitches, a key reason he didn't last long as a starter during spring training. In August, he returned the form that earned him 40 saves as a rookie, showing an ability to mix his blazing fastball with changeups to keep hitters off-balance.
He finished the regular season with 32 saves in 38 tries. But it's the one save out of the three in the World Series that will stick with him.
"During a long season you learn a lot of things," Feliz said. "I know that I'm better and I'll be better all the time that I am here."