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Mighty 'pen lifts Texas as Rangers ding Keuchel

MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister was saying it all spring while everybody else was wondering who would be the closer.

Banister kept emphasizing the goal was to have a complete bullpen, not just one guy who could shut it down in the ninth. The Rangers' 5-1 victory over the Astros on Friday night emphatically proved the manager's point.

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ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister was saying it all spring while everybody else was wondering who would be the closer.

Banister kept emphasizing the goal was to have a complete bullpen, not just one guy who could shut it down in the ninth. The Rangers' 5-1 victory over the Astros on Friday night emphatically proved the manager's point.

View Full Game Coverage

Right-hander Keone Kela handled the ninth with little trouble, but it turned out not to be a save situation because of the sixth-inning work of Chris Martin and Alex Claudio.

They recorded the two biggest outs of the night as the Rangers earned their first win and broke a five-game losing streak to the Astros going back to last year. Doug Fister earned the win by holding the Astros to one run in five innings with the bullpen making it stand.

Video: HOU@TEX: Gallo talks win, hard-hit double

"As as a starter you never take the pressure off yourself," Fister said. "But it is reassuring when our work is done, we have a tremendous bullpen that is going to come in behind us."

That was the plan going into the game.

"If we got the lead and Fister was good through five and got to that third time through the lineup, we would probably go to the bullpen at that point," Banister said. "We feel comfortable in that situation. We are going in with a little more solid plan and better feel of who our guys are."

Video: HOU@TEX: Fister gets two big outs with double play

Martin took over in the sixth, and Jose Altuve led off with a single to right that Nomar Mazara trapped with his glove. That call stood up after a Rangers challenge. Martin struck out Carlos Correa, but the Rangers misplayed Alex Bregman's grounder up the middle as second baseman Rougned Odor's wild throw into the dugout left runners at second and third.

Martin again had to wait for an umpire's review to place the runners. Once he was able to resume, Martin walked Marwin Gonzalez but struck out Evan Gattis for the second out of the inning.

"Tough conditions, had to endure two replays," Banister said. "Stood out there and maintained his composure. Got a big strikeout."

Video: HOU@TEX: Altuve reaches first on hit, call stands

Banister then brought in Claudio, his soft-tossing left-hander. Banister might trust Claudio more than any reliever with runners on base, and his confidence was reinforced again.

The Astros had Derek Fisher up and manager AJ Hinch countered with right-handed-hitting J.D. Davis. Claudio struck him out on an 85-mph sinker.

"It was a messy inning," Hinch said. "The way the inning went, it ended up dragging on a little bit and we ended up losing out on the good at-bats, and they're pitching came in and did a pretty good job ending the inning."

Claudio set down the side in order in the seventh, Kevin Jepsen pitched a scoreless eighth and Kela finished up. The Rangers were outscored 228-152 combined in the sixth and seventh innings last year. That's why Banister has put so much emphasis on having a complete bullpen.

Video: HOU@TEX: Banister praises bullpen, young hitters

"It's early, but we're cautiously optimistic in a sense that we felt this was a group of guys who could string some scoreless innings together," Banister said.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mazara takes lefty deep: Mazara gave the Rangers their first lead of the season with a home run off southpaw Dallas Keuchel in the second. Mazara had just one home run in 113 at-bats against left-handers last season before going deep the first time he faced one this year. Keuchel allowed just three home runs to left-handers last season. More >

"I've had some good success against those guys, the lefties especially, with the two-seam barreling inside," Keuchel said. "That one stayed true and didn't really have that late bite that it usually does. He's a good hitter for a reason."

Video: HOU@TEX: Mazara belts hardest home run off Keuchel

DeShields makes four-star catch: Rangers center fielder Delino DeShields made all three put-outs in the Astros' seventh. The best catch was the first one against Max Stassi, who had doubled over DeShields' head in the fifth to drive in Houston's only run. This time, DeShields raced into the left-center to haul in the drive. According to Statcast™, it was a four-star catch: 41 percent catch probability, with 4.5 seconds opportunity time and 72 feet covered.

"I didn't want to give up on it," DeShields said. "It hung up a little bit. Anything hit out there I want to get. He got me on the at-bat before that, and I said that's not going to happen again."

Video: HOU@TEX: DeShields runs down fly ball from Stassi

MITEL REPLAYS OF THE DAY
The Rangers led 3-1 when Altuve led off the sixth smacking a line drive to right field. Mazara appeared to have trouble seeing the ball in the lights, backed up and ended up trapping the ball on the catch. The Rangers challenged and the call stood on review.

"I caught it, 100 percent," Mazara said.

The second review of the inning was more complicated. With one out, Bregman hit a ground ball up the middle that Andrus fielded behind the bag. He flipped to Odor trying to get the force but pulled him off the bag. Odor then tried to get the runner at first with an off-balance, corkscrew throw and ended up putting it in the Rangers' dugout.

The umpires initially allowed Altuve to score and placed Bregman at third. But after a crew-chief review, Altuve was held at third and Bregman sent back to second. That proved huge because both runners ended up getting stranded.

"They said he hadn't occupied second base yet by the time the ball had left Odor's hand," Hinch said.

Video: HOU@TEX: Bregman reaches on error, call stands

WHAT'S NEXT
Astros: Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. will make his first start of the season Saturday in the third game of this four-game series. McCullers went 7-4 with a 4.25 ERA in 22 starts last year, and he is 0-3 with a 6.26 ERA in five starts against Texas.

Rangers: Left-hander Matt Moore pitches against the Astros at 3:05 p.m. CT Saturday. Moore is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three career starts against the Astros and is making his first start for Texas.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Alex Claudio, Keone Kela, Chris Martin