HOUSTON -- Robbie Ross Jr., who threw 42 pitches over 2 1/3 innings in relief at Round Rock on Thursday, told the Rangers he could throw 100 pitches on Saturday night.
"He was serious," manager Ron Washington said.
The Rangers didn't take Ross up on his offer even though he had a no-hitter going through five innings in a scoreless pitching duel with Astros starter Scott Feldman.
"It was all about Robbie Ross and protecting him," Washington said. "I thought he was outstanding. He had given us 70 quality pitches and we were expecting 60. That was enough."
So the Rangers went to the bullpen and the Astros scratched out two runs in the seventh against reliever Phil Klein. That was enough for Feldman, who pitched a three-hitter for his second career shutout in a 2-0 victory over his former team.
The Rangers managed just three singles and a walk, and had just one baserunner reach second base.
"He was at his best tonight," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "He was painting the corners with his sinker every time he wanted to. When he does that, he's effective for sure. He was aggressive, he never let us feel comfortable."
Feldman is now 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA in six starts against the Rangers over the past two seasons.
"I felt terrible warming up," Feldman said. "I didn't know where the ball was going. Once I got in the game I felt better. I was trying to mix it up like usual. I had pretty good command of all [my pitches]. That's what helped, being able to mix it up."
Ross wasn't worried about the no-hitter. His goal is to get one more chance to prove he belongs in the rotation. He knows there is a long line of 2015 candidates jostling for position.
Ross, who was demoted to Round Rock on June 17, got this start because Miles Mikolas was scratched because of shoulder fatigue. Ross also got a spot start on Aug. 14 against the Rays when Yu Darvish went on the disabled list and allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings. That's why the Rangers were leaning toward bringing him back as a reliever in September until this opportunity came up.
"I was disappointed after my last outing against Tampa Bay," Ross said. "I had worked on a lot of stuff in Triple-A and didn't bring it back to the big leagues. I got caught up in the hype and the excitement rather than locking it down. Today I was doing things I didn't do against Tampa Bay."
Ross didn't have much time to get too excited. He found out he was starting on Friday night in Round Rock. He drove his wife back to Dallas, got a few hours sleep, took a Saturday morning flight to Houston and then sat around in the hotel lobby waiting to go to work.
Ross put that all behind him and no-hit the Astros through five innings. He walked three and struck out five. The last Rangers pitcher to leave a game without allowing a hit through five innings or later was Rich Harden on Aug. 23, 2010, against the Twins. Harden didn't allow a hit in 6 2/3 innings in a game the Rangers won, 4-0. The only hit was a single by Joe Mauer off Neftali Feliz in the ninth.
"I knew what was going on," Ross said. "But I felt good … it was more along the lines of how I felt. I wanted to go with the feeling."
Washington went with the bullpen.
Klein took over and pitched a scoreless sixth, although the combined no-hit bid ended with a one-out double in the inning by Jose Altuve.
Klein then put himself in trouble by starting the seventh issuing a four-pitch walk to Jesus Guzman. Carlos Corporan, hitting from the left side, then sliced a high fly ball down the left-field line that landed just in fair territory and bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double.
With runners at second and third, Jake Marisnick hit a high chopper that Klein fielded backing off of the mound. He looked at home, decided he didn't have a shot at Guzman and threw to first. But first baseman Ryan Rua, who started the play by breaking to his right going for the grounder, couldn't get back to the base in time. The throw got by him and both runners ended up scoring.
Washington thought Klein might have had a play at the plate.
"Hindsight is always 20-20 but when I looked up … [Guzman] looked close to home plate," Klein said. "Looking back, the worst-case scenario, he would have been safe with first and third and only one run."
That might have been enough with the way Feldman was pitching. For Ross, the question is if he'll get another chance to start or if he has go to the back of the line.
Right now four of the Rangers' five starters are Colby Lewis, Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez and Derek Holland. When the fifth spot comes up again, it could be Ross, Mikolas or Scott Baker. Ross at least gave them something to think about.
"Let's move forward and see where we are when that spot comes up again," Washington said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.