ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 11: Ron Washington #38 of the Texas Rangers calls for a pitcher against the Los Angeles Angels on May 11, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
As we've discussed already today, the Texas Rangers didn't get the outing they were hoping for from their ace on Tuesday night, when Yu Darvish failed to get through six innings after racking up a 100-plus pitches and suffering with a lack of control throughout the night. They definitely expected better out of him against the lowly Houston Astros, who he'd so dominated in his starts against them this year, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning and falling one out shy of a perfect game.
But it was OK for the Rangers, who were in a must-win situation on Tuesday, just like they are on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, etc. You get the picture.
The strength of the Rangers all season has been in its bullpen as the Rangers sport the second-best ERA in the American League behind the Kansas City Royals and are loaded with quality arms.
On Tuesday, when Darvish was struggling in a tied game in the sixth inning, Washington didn't do his usual act of letting the starter try to work his way out of the problem. He simply can't afford to do that at this point, and to his credit, he didn't.
Washington went to Neal Cotts, who got two outs to end the inning and another out in the seventh before giving way to Tanner Scheppers, who quickly ended the inning. In the eighth, Scheppers ran into trouble with two outs when he allowed a single and a walk, and Washington plugged in Jason Frasor, who got a shallow fly out to center to end the inning. Then, Joe Nathan rolled through the Astros in the ninth for another save.
It was a good example of what the Rangers' bullpen is capable of when it's lined up correctly. And with five games remaining in the regular season, it's going to be the way the Rangers win out to hopefully get a postseason bid, by shortening the game.
With the Rangers' bullpen, there's no reason a starting pitcher who isn't absolutely dominant should go past the sixth inning. That's how Washington needs to play the game over these final five.