Sunday, April 17, 2011
Bullpen can't hold things late on Sunday
By Richard Durrett
NEW YORK -- The guy the Rangers really needed on Sunday for the eighth inning also started the game.
Before Tommy Hunter's groin injury, the eighth inning was going to be Alexi Ogando's inning in relief as the primary right-handed setup man for closer Neftali Feliz. But with Ogando stepping into the starting rotation, a void was left in the eighth inning.
Manager Ron Washington has used his veteran left-handers -- Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver -- in those situations while trying to figure out what he has in Pedro Strop, Mason Tobin and Mark Lowe. Going into Sunday's game, the Rangers' bullpen had the fewest innings pitched of any in the league. The starters have helped Washington work around the bullpen and utilize his experienced arms.
On Sunday, Washington tried to squeeze two innings out of Arthur Rhodes and couldn't quite do it. Rhodes came in to get the final two outs in the seventh after Ogando's night ended. At that point, it was a 5-4 Yankees lead and Rhodes was trying to keep it that way. He did by getting Brett Gardner to fly out and Derek Jeter to ground out.
The Rangers turned around and scored in the top half of the eighth to tie the game. But after getting Curtis Granderson to fly out to start the bottom half, Rhodes issued a walk to Mark Teixeira on a 3-2 pitch. With two outs and two runners on, Eric Chavez hit a hard ball right up the middle that knocked Rhodes down and bounded into center field, scoring Teixeira with the go-ahead and eventual winning run. Strop came in with two outs and the bases loaded to get the final out of the inning.
Rhodes threw 34 pitches and couldn't quite get through that crucial eighth inning.
"Arthur was the right guy," Washington said. "You've got to give credit to Eric Chavez. You've got to give credit to Teixeira for the walk. It wasn't like Arthur was some rudi-poop out there."
Washington said it was "just one of those games" where the momentum kept swinging and the Yankees got the last big hit they needed.
The challenge for Washington is finding the guys he can trust in the bullpen. That may mean running Strop out there in a big situation and finding out what he's got. He was able to get Russell Martin, who hit a home run in an earlier at-bat off Ogando, to end the eighth inning and keep it a one-run game. Maybe he'll get more chances.