ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Rangers acquired Mike Gonzalez from Baltimore after the trade deadline just in case they needed a situational lefty to get one batter in a crucial playoff game.
As an added bonus, the Rangers liked Gonzalez because he pitched in the AL East, meaning he would be especially familiar with the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays.
Gonzalez did his job perfectly Monday in Game 3 of the ALDS.
With runners on first and second and one out, Ron Washington brought Gonzalez in to face left-handed Johnny Damon, one of the game's best clutch hitters.
Gonzalez blew him away, striking him out on three pitches. Damon slammed his bat to the ground as he returned to the dugout.
"Gonzalez did a great job taking care of Johnny Damon," Washington said. "Once he got rid of him on three pitches, then we could give the ball to Nefty."
While Gonzalez excelled, much of the Rangers' bullpen struggled. Washington used five pitchers, who combined to throw 74 pitches, to record the final six outs.
Mike Adams threw 26 pitches, which could make him less effective if the Rangers need him to pitch the eighth inning today, and the same goes for Neftali Feliz, who threw 25 pitches in getting a four-out save.
"I kind of like that," Tampa manager Joe Maddon said of Feliz throwing 25 pitches. "That's the thing about a four-out save. If you can work through some at-bats and get the pitch count up - these closers aren't used to that."
The Rangers survived.
Now, the question is whether a win in Game 3 leaves them vulnerable in Game 4.