Scott Feldman aces spot start as Josh Hamilton, Rangers tweak Rays

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Scott Feldman was spot-on when he finally got a chance to start again for the AL West-leading Texas Rangers.

Feldman threw six scoreless innings in his first start this season, combining with four relievers on a three-hitter in a 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.

After winning 17 games in 2009 and being the Rangers' Opening Day starter last year with a new contract, Feldman was in the bullpen after missing the first half of this season recovering from offseason knee surgery. After seven relief appearances since July 22, he got a spot start when Texas decided to skip 10-game winner Matt Harrison's spot in the rotation so the left-hander could get some extended rest.

"The worst part of it was probably in the offseason when I was on crutches for a couple of months," Feldman said. "Maybe they'll run me out there when a guy needs a rest again or something like that. I don't even know what the plan is. More than anything, it's just good to contribute."

The only balls Tampa Bay hit out of the infield against Feldman (1-0) were the two singles he allowed. There were 12 groundouts, four strikeouts and two runners caught stealing in the 18 outs recorded while he was on the mound.

"He kept it down in the zone and did an outstanding job," manager Ron Washington said. "We certainly needed it."

Josh Hamilton had a towering homer for the Rangers, hitting hit the first pitch of the sixth inning thrown by rookie right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (11-10) deep into a second deck of seats in right field. It landed an estimated 449 feet from home plate, his 19th homer, and broke a scoreless tie.

"I thought it was actually going to be the first time I've seen a ball hit on the roof up there," Feldman said.

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon was reminded of the film "The Natural" when Hamilton hit the pitch that was thrown down the middle of the plate.

"That was properly struck," he said. "That would have done Robert Redford proud."

Michael Young followed with a double and scored on a single by David Murphy.

Mark Lowe, Darren Oliver, Mike Adams combined for two no-hit innings to set up Neftali Feliz for his 26th save in 32 chances. It was the Rangers' 16th shutout this season.

The Rays, held scoreless for the 13th time this season, had two runners on with no outs and got two balls out of the infield in the ninth. But Feliz finally got out of the jam when Evan Longoria grounded into a game-ending double play.

Feldman struck out four with one walk while throwing 88 pitches, right in the range of what Washington had said before the game.

"He had given us everything he needed to give us," Washington said. "The rest was up to the bullpen. They came in and did the job."

The Rays had hit 10 homers in their previous series against Toronto, a team-record for a series. But they barely got any balls off the ground in their first game at Texas since last season's AL playoffs.

Hellickson is 1/3 in his five August starts despite a 2.49 ERA in that span. He struck out four and walked four, two of those intentional, while giving up two runs and six hits.

The Rangers still had the bases loaded after scoring twice in the sixth before Ian Kinsler, the last batter Hellickson faced, hit an inning-ending flyball on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.

"He pitched great. We've just got to figure out how to beat some of these pitchers we're facing. Too many 1-0, 2-0 losses. We've got to get beyond that. There are no excuses," Maddon said. "He had to pitch through some land mines to keep it at two runs. We did some really good things. He didn't cave in by any means."

There was a strange play in the third after Rodriguez had a two-out single for Tampa Bay. Desmond Jennings then hit a grounder to shortstop Elvis Andrus, who fielded the ball and then realized that Rodriguez had rounded second and was right behind him well away from the base. Andrus reached out, missed and then ran Rodriguez back to the bag, reaching out to tag the runner as he dived back into the base.

Second base umpire Wally Bell ruled Rodriguez safe, though a replay showed the tag was applied in time.

Texas got out of the inning quickly after that when Johnny Damon was retired on a comebacker.

Game notes
Murphy has started four consecutive games, going 7 for 15 in that stretch. ... The Rangers are 43-27 at home. ... Along with Hamilton's long homer, the reigning AL MVP also had two big swings when the bat slipped out of his hands. One of them landed about 10 rows behind the Rangers dugout, in some empty seats, and the other wound up coming to rest in foul territory past first base near coach Gary Pettis.