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Extra Bases: Rested bullpen back on track

8/21/2013

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers' bullpen is back on track.

After a pair of losses over the weekend against Seattle, the Texas bullpen came back with a huge effort in Tuesday's 4-2 victory over the Houston Astros, delivering five scoreless innings.

Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan followed up starter Travis Blackley's four innings by retiring 15 of the 18 batters they faced. That included eight strikeouts, three of them from Nathan to close out the game.

The bullpen was on alert Tuesday night because Blackley, acquired from the Astros last week, was on a strict pitch count of 65 because he hadn't started a game this season.

"We're pretty confident we can get outs," Cotts said. "We're well rested out there and working well together. It was a good team win."

Blackley did his part. He allowed a two-run home run to Matt Dominguez in the second inning, but that was it. Astros rookie Jarred Cosart hadn't allowed more than two runs in his six starts to begin his career, so Blackley also was aware of what was in front of him.

"He did what he needed him to do, keep us in the game," manager Ron Washington said. "After that fourth we felt like we didn't need to stretch him out anymore, so we took him out."

Blackley threw 28 pitches in a long fourth inning -- he works at a slow, slow pace -- but was able to work around a one-out single.

That set up the pen. Frasor got five outs. Cotts picked up four. Scheppers, who may well warrant all of the eighth-inning setup opportunities the rest of the way, worked around a one-out single.

Scheppers has rarely pitched on back-to-back days since the All-Star break after a heavy load in the first half. In fact, the Ranger bullpen's 36 2/3 innings pitched in August entering Tuesday was the least in the major leagues.

"(Tanner) got a good break there," Washington said. "Now he's starting to get opportunities to get back out there. And as long as he sees hitters, he'll be fine."

With Derek Holland starting Wednesday and the fact he's been an automatic six or seven innings this season, Washington was able to lean on his bullpen to clinch the win Tuesday.

They delivered. Now comes the next day.

"We were trying to win a ball game," Washington said. "It was about today. It wasn't about what's going to happen tomorrow. You never know what's going to happen tomorrow. For some reason if it doesn't go our way tomorrow, we have enough in the bullpen."

What's up now: Rapid reaction from Tuesday's 4-2 victory over the Houston Astros. Plus, a postgame blog on the amazing Adrian Beltre.

On deck: It's a battle of left-handers as Derek Holland (9-6, 2.95) faces Erik Bedard (3-9, 4.49) at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday night on Fox Sports Southwest and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and Deportes 1540 AM.

Question of the day: Is it time for Washington to give the eighth inning back to Scheppers exclusively?