ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 20: Alexi Ogando #41 of the Texas Rangers pitches in the seventh inning during Game Two of the MLB World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on October 20, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
When Alexi Ogando returned to the Texas Rangers' battered starting rotation on Wednesday in a hornet's nest for opposing pitchers — Boston's Fenway Park — things could've gone awfully bad, especially considering the way Tuesday night's series opener went, when David Murphy pitched an inning in a 17-5 Rangers loss.
If Ogando struggled, you could've been looking at second straight night of using the "losing parts" of the bullpen in just the second game of a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, mostly against strong contenders.
But the reliever-turned starter-turned reliever-turned starter once again did anything but struggle, going 5 2/3 innings and throwing 92 pitches after just one rehab starter in Frisco leading up to the return. Ogando had six strikeouts and gave up a home run to Dustin Pedroia to tie the game and chase him, but before that he had a couple of rough patches, and he got out of them effectively.
The biggest test came in the fourth inning when he worked around two base runners to strike out the side, including David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, seeing his fastball get up to 96 mph after struggling to stay in the 90s in his last big-league start before he went on the DL.
"That was a great moment,” Ogando told ESPN Dallas. “That was a big inning. I had to focus on every pitch. I had to concentrate and not throw any mistake pitches.”
It was a big return for Ogando, who showed an effective mix of pitches with his slider, change and fastball and all of his teammates were thrilled with the way he pitched in his first big-league start since May 15 — a win over Oakland.
"We need him back in the rotation," said Rangers closer Joe Nathan, who earned a breezy six-pitch save. "We need him feeling good about himself, feeling confident and knowing that he's going to be a stable member of that rotation."