Rangers' faith rewarded with Claudio's save
Left-hander doesn't mess around in logging perfect 9th frame
KANSAS CITY -- There was no second-guessing manager Jeff Banister's choice of relievers in a 5-3 victory over the Royals on Friday night.
"Every manager is better when he gets relief pitching like that," Banister said after right-hander Matt Bush and left-hander Alex Claudio combined to retire six straight hitters to preserve the win for starter Martin Perez.
The Rangers did it in reverse order than how they did it in the first three months of the season. Bush set the Royals down in order in the eighth and Claudio closed it out in the ninth for his second save.
It was the first save for a Rangers pitcher since Bush recorded one on June 27 in Cleveland. He was taken out of the closer's role at the beginning of July, and this was the first time since that the Rangers needed a closer for a ninth-inning save situation.
Banister said the Royals' lineup dictated the way he deployed his relievers. Bush faced three right-handed hitters -- Whit Merrifield, Jorge Bonifacio and Lorenzo Cain -- at the top of the order.
That left the middle of the lineup for Claudio with two of the three hitters being left-handed in Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
"It was matchup driven," Banister said. "Bush's high fastball and low offspeed stuff are tough on the right-handed hitters, and then Claudio with the left-handers."
Claudio retired Hosmer on a popout, then struck out Salvador Perez and got Moustakas on a grounder to first to end the threat.
"It was a good save for him," Banister said. "Claudio came in throwing strikes. We have a lot of trust in Claudio. He has been one of the most reliable guys in our bullpen all season."
Claudio made it look easy in an inning that has been anything but for the Rangers this year. He needed just seven pitches to get the job done.
"It looked like it was easy, but not inside me," Claudio said. "Inside, for me, it's different. I was a little nervous. But if you are not feeling nervous, then you are not feeling anything."
The closer's role is still open and what Claudio gave the Rangers on Friday night is exactly what they have been looking for all season.
"I like it," Claudio said. "If they need me, I'm ready."