Bullpen gets chance to shine in close game

SEATTLE -- Mike Adams had almost forgotten what it was like to come into the eighth inning with a one-run lead.

The reliever, acquired in a trade deadline deal with Baltimore on July 31, was brought in to strengthen the back end of the bullpen. But when the bats start bashing, bullpens sometimes don't get a chance to see tight games. The last time Adams pitched when the Rangers were tied or had a one-run lead was Aug. 18., when he gave up a walk-off home run to Mark Trumbo in Anaheim.

"It's been a month since I pitched when we were leading a tight one," Adams said. "We just haven't had a chance. It's nice to get out there when it matters like that and get the job done."

With the Rangers up 7-6 in the sixth inning, manager Ron Washington went to his bullpen. He had it lined up just like he wanted it. Darren Oliver came in with two outs in the sixth and got left-handed No. 9 hitter Michael Saunders to hit a soft grounder to the mound. The Mariners had five straight lefties and a switch hitter (Josh Bard) at the top of their lineup. So Oliver stayed in for the seventh. He retired Ichiro Suzuki, Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley on strikeouts.

In the eighth, Washington normally goes to Adams for the full inning regardless of whether left-handed or right-handed batters are up. But on Saturday, he decided he wanted Michael Gonzalez to pitch to Mike Carp, who had already hit a homer in the game and is one of the most dangerous hitters in the lineup.

One reason might be that four of the five earned runs that Adams has allowed since coming to Texas have been on home runs. Lefties are hitting just .202 against Gonzalez with two homers all season.

"Anywhere you want to put me, I'm ready to go and help the team any way possible," said Gonzalez, who had never faced Carp. "You just pitch to your strengths in those situations. I wanted to be aggressive in the strike zone and get a strikeout or a ground ball."

Gonzalez struck out Carp and Adams, who was told to be ready should the Mariners pinch hit for left-handed hitting Adam Kennedy, came in once Wily Mo Pena was announced.

Adams admitted he was surprised he didn't start the eighth inning, but he's not complaining about coming in and getting a chance to get meaningful outs late. Adams got Pena to ground out to short and Bard to pop up to end the eighth.

"It's a lot more fun to throw in tight situations than a game that's a little bit out of hand," Adams said. "Your focus is a little bit sharper and it's a lot more fun. I'd prefer to start the inning, but whatever job they want me to do to help the team win that's what I want to do. As long as we can get the job done, that's all that matters.

That left the ninth for Neftali Feliz, who came in for his first save chance since Aug. 30. Feliz didn't try to do anything fancy. He threw 96-to-99 mph fastballs and blew them by Mariners hitters, retiring all three hitters he faced.

"I didn't pay much attention to how long it had been since I closed," Feliz said through a translator (shout out to Elvis Andrus for handling that for us). "I wanted to go out there and win the game. This late in the season I just want to do my job."

Feliz continued his mastery of the Mariners, who are now 0-for-42 with three walks and 18 strikeouts against the Rangers closer in his career. Feliz said he wasn't aware of that.

For the bullpen, Saturday was a chance to get some work in a tight game. That's not unlike what they expect in a few more contests down the stretch and, of course, in the playoffs.

"It's night and day the feeling you get and the adrenaline rush," Gonzalez said. "You've been put in those positions before and you're used to that. It's always good to go out there and be in that position."