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Pitching in: Rangers' bullpen shuts down Reds

Relievers hold Cincy to five hits, one run in series opener
@Sullivan_Ranger
June 15, 2019

CINCINNATI -- Bullpen night was a smash hit for the Rangers at Great American Ball Park on Friday. Rookie left-hander Brett Martin -- who earned his first Major League win -- Drew Smyly -- who earned his first save in six years -- starter Jesse Chavez -- who tossed an

CINCINNATI -- Bullpen night was a smash hit for the Rangers at Great American Ball Park on Friday.

Rookie left-hander Brett Martin -- who earned his first Major League win -- Drew Smyly -- who earned his first save in six years -- starter Jesse Chavez -- who tossed an effective three innings -- and Jeffrey Springs combined for a five-hittter in the Rangers' 7-1 victory over the Reds.

Box score

“Great way to follow it up,” Chavez said. “One guy gets his first win and the other gets another save.”

The Rangers used this arrangement because manager Chris Woodward felt it was time to take Smyly out of the rotation after he posted an 8.40 ERA in his first nine starts and two relief appearances. Woodward wasn’t sure how he would use Smyly as a reliever, but Friday proved a fortuitous choice. Smyly closed out the final three innings and the Rangers were able to rest their normal late-inning setup relievers in the win.

“I just take the ball every chance I get and try to improve,” Smyly said. “That’s where my mindset is, put up zeros every chance I get.”

This was the seventh time this season the Rangers have begun a game with a reliever on the mound. Five times were when they used an opener and one other, like Friday, came when they were trying to piece it together with relievers. The Rangers are 5-2 in those games, including 3-1 with Chavez as the starter.

A steal of home by Elvis Andrus helped the Rangers score two runs off Reds starter Tyler Mahle in the first, and Rougned Odor’s grand slam off reliever Wandy Peralta made it 6-0 in the fifth. The grand slam was the fourth by the Rangers this season and also the fourth by Odor in his career.

Chavez set the tone for this one with three scoreless inning, retiring nine of 10 batters. He struck out four and threw 47 pitches, keeping him under the 50-pitch limit set by Woodward. Chavez had a 23-inning scoreless streak snapped in his last outing, but still has a 0.35 ERA since the beginning of May.

“He has been pretty efficient, especially over the last two months,” Woodward said. “You expect that, but you just don’t know. I didn’t want him to go over 50 pitches whether that was two innings or two 2/3. It worked out. At one point it looked like he could go four. That was perfect, now he won’t be down that long. Kept him under 50, he should be fine.”

Martin followed with two scoreless innings. He allowed one hit but faced the minimum of six batters because third baseman Asdrubal Cabrera backhanded a hard grounder from Jose Peraza and started an inning-ending double play.

That put Martin in position to get his first big league win.

“It’s cliche, but everybody dreams about pitching in the big leagues and to also get your first Major League win,” Martin said. “It’s nice. Also, to get it out of the way. Hopefully there’s many more to come. We knew coming into today it was going to be a bullpen day and we knew we were going to have to possibly grind through it sometimes. Chavy did an amazing job getting us through three innings.”

Springs pitched a scoreless sixth and Smyly went three. A home run by Nick Senzel off Smyly was the Reds' only run of the night.

“All our guys did a great job following the game plan,” Woodward said. “Especially with Drew finishing it the way he did, [it] was great for him and the team, [and we were] able to stay away from our back-end bullpen guys. That should be a good confidence booster for him.”

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.