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Neftali Feliz leads the Midwest League in strikeouts, and the Kane County Cougars were reminded of that stat several times Sunday. Ten times, in fact.
Feliz (6-2) struck out 10 and allowed three hits and two walks over six shutout innings as the visiting Clinton LumberKings blanked the Cougars, 8-0.
The right-hander, whose fastball has been clocked as high as 99 mph, has collected 21 strikeouts in the past two starts and has fanned eight or more batters in six of his 15 starts this season for Clinton.
With 10 strikeouts against Kane County, Feliz surpassed Lansing's Brad Mills to lead the Midwest League with 93 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings. Mills led the league after whiffing seven Saturday.
Feliz, who turned 20 on May 2, struck out two of the three batters he faced in his first inning of work. He fanned two in the second and third, one in the fourth, two more in the fifth and got Corey Brown swinging for his 10th and final K in the sixth.
His 10 strikeouts were the second most in a start in his career. The former Braves farmhand has emerged as an ace for Clinton and a candidate to reach Double-A Frisco by summer's end.
The Midwest League All-Star induced three grounders and five flyouts in lowering his ERA to 2.06 in his 15th start.
Feliz was predicted by MiLB.com to be the Rangers' 2008 Pitcher of the Year and is well on his way. He's allowed just six earned runs in his last 58 innings over 11 starts -- a 0.91 ERA -- and has not allowed an earned run in six of those games.
The Azua, Dominican Republic native fanned 11 and allowed just one hit over 5 1/3 innings in his previous start June 14 against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
Clinton (1-3) staked Feliz to a 4-0 lead in the second when Renny Osuna lined a two-RBI single and Tim Smith and Ian Gac followed with a run-scoring singles. Matthew Lawson and Smith plated runs in the fifth for a 6-0 advantage.
Gac slugged his 18th homer to lead off the eighth before Andres James capped the scoring with a two-out RBI single.
Feliz originally signed with the Braves in 2006 and appeared in 19 games over parts of two seasons in the Atlanta system. He was 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA for Danville before he was traded by the Braves with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and three other Minor Leaguers to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay last July 31. He joined Class A Short-Season Spokane of the Northwest League and went 0-2 with a 3.60 ERA in nine appearances to finish out the '07 campaign.
Rangers Director of Minor League Operations John Lombardo described Feliz's fastball as "effortless" after seeing him in Spring Training this season. "He's the easiest 97-to-99 [mph] you'll ever see," Lombardo told MLB.com in March. "It's like he's out there playing catch. He's got the makings of a decent repertoire."
Kane County (3-1) managed five hits. Starter Jamie Richmond (5-7) was roughed up for six runs on 13 hits over 4 2/3 innings to suffer the loss.
Danny Wild is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.