ARLINGTON -- It turns out that the Rangers' upgraded bullpen, widely considered one of the club's major strengths, is still a work in progress. That much was evident in consecutive losses to the Mariners, ending with a shaky appearance Wednesday by closer Shawn Tolleson, who allowed five runs to blow
ARLINGTON -- It turns out that the Rangers' upgraded bullpen, widely considered one of the club's major strengths, is still a work in progress. That much was evident in consecutive losses to the Mariners, ending with a shaky appearance Wednesday by closer Shawn Tolleson, who allowed five runs to blow the save in Texas' 9-5 loss.
Fellow reliever Tony Barnette took the loss the night before. Wednesday, Keone Kela and Jake Diekman labored in the seventh, leading to a Mariners run. The Rangers' bullpen didn't live up to the hype in the first series -- but they believe it's premature to draw any genuine conclusions.
"It's a small sample size," Tolleson said. "We had two bad days. Hopefully, we have 12 good days in a row after this, and then our conversation will be a little different."
Manager Jeff Banister said much the same thing: "I would hope that we wouldn't panic in two games. … We've got to be better, no doubt."
After Colby Lewis battled through six frequently shaky innings and left with the lead thanks to Prince Fielder's three-run homer, the Rangers used Kela, Diekman and Sam Dyson before handing Tolleson the ball for the ninth, giving him his second save opportunity in three days.
Pinch-hitter Norichika Aoki greeted Tolleson with a single up the middle on the first pitch, then Ketel Marte singled and Leonys Martin drove home Aoki with a game-tying double. Kyle Seager followed with a single that scored Marte and Martin, and Cano delivered the crushing blow with his fourth homer of the series on a changeup that Tolleson left up. Tolleson was pulled after that.
"I felt really good today -- if I knew what it was, I would have fixed it," Tolleson said. "They were just on me."
Tolleson faced five batters, all of whom had hits and scored off him. He took over the closer job in the first half of last season. Only twice in his Rangers career has Tolleson been unable to record an out in an appearance -- but the last time was his final appearance of 2015, when he ran out of steam pitching for the fifth day in a row and the Rangers blew a four-run, ninth-inning lead against the Angels on Oct. 3.
Banister said he's not overly worried about Tolleson at this point.
"He threw the ball very well the first [game]," Banister said. "Velocity at 94 [mph], sharp, changeup was in play, breaking ball was sharp. After two outings, I'm not going to raise the red flag of being concerned. We'll continue to pay attention to it."
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com.