Relief corps steps up in emergency bullpen game

June 11th, 2022

CHICAGO -- When the Rangers arrived at Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday afternoon, they had to adjust -- and quickly. Starter Glenn Otto had been placed on the COVID IL, and Texas needed a new starter with first pitch just hours away.

got the start on short notice, and five other pitchers contributed in the 8-3 loss to the White Sox on Friday night.

“We were obviously put in a tough spot, losing our starter,” manager Chris Woodward said. “But I thought our pitching did a good job and kept us in the game.”

After Otto joined catcher Mitch Garver on the COVID IL prior to the game, the Rangers knew that a bullpen game was the only possibility. Jesús Tinoco and Tyson Miller were added to the roster as replacements from Triple-A Round Rock, and Bush was named the starter.

“It’s part of the job,” Woodward said on adjusting the team’s plans. “We pride ourselves on never panicking. It’s a next-man-up mentality. It’s a really good group in the bullpen, and it’s something that with this group, I have no concerns with.”

Otto’s scratched start was not only a temporary inconvenience, but also a blow for the Rangers' pitching plans. He owns a 4.24 ERA in eight starts this season, but the 26-year-old has pitched better than that number suggests.

In seven of his eight starts this season, besides one eight-run debacle against the Red Sox on May 14, Otto has allowed 2 runs or fewer -- and in those games, he has an impressive 2.72 ERA. More important, he recovered seamlessly after his one bad outing, going 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his next four starts before suddenly hitting the IL.

But with the plans changed and Otto unavailable, the Rangers were headed for a bullpen game.

“We’ll obviously have some guys that will pitch multiple innings -- we’re going to have to,” Woodward said pregame. “But I think we’re okay, especially with the guys that we have here.”

Rangers' relievers threw everything they had at the White Sox. And early on, they held their own.

Bush, a righty, started by throwing one scoreless inning, and three right-handed relievers followed -- Garrett Richards, Miller and Dennis Santana. The four right-handers pitched a combined seven innings, giving up just five hits and two earned runs (three total) with four walks and six strikeouts.

Miller -- who had joined the team barely an hour before first pitch -- did the heavy lifting for Texas. He went 2 1/3 innings, allowing just one hit, one unearned run and two walks.

“It was a pretty good outing,” Miller said. “I was just going with it. I was happy I got some soft contact.”

But once the Rangers had used four straight right-handed arms out of the bullpen, that’s when the trouble began. The team had four left-handed arms available and only two righties -- Tinoco, who had just arrived from the Minors, and closer Joe Barlow.

After Corey Seager blasted a game-tying 435-foot home run to tie the game in the 8th inning, Texas was still in it. Seager’s homer came after Nathaniel Lowe crusheda 439-foot home run in the fifth inning and Adolis García followed with a 432-foot homer in the sixth.

“It’s nice to see guys drive the ball,” Lowe said. “It’s been a phrase for a long time that teams ‘live and die by the long ball.’ We have to create runs however we can create them.”

It was just the second time in the Statcast era (since 2015) that the Rangers have hit three home runs longer than 430 feet in a game. The other time was on June 29, 2018, against the White Sox, when Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo and Shin-Soo Choo did it.

Those three long balls, however, weren’t enough after an eighth-inning bullpen collapse. Lefty John King gave up five runs and could not finish the inning. The White Sox, who were hitting .277 with an .806 OPS against left-handed pitchers coming into the game, capitalized once the Rangers had exhausted their supply of trusted lefties.

“The little dribbler with two outs is a play that we have to make,” Woodward said, referencing a key play in the 8th: A slow grounder to first that could have been an out, but turned into an opportunity for Chicago when King, attempting to cover first, couldn’t hang onto Lowe’s throw. “But even after that, a thing that has been plaguing King is when he gets in trouble, the ball starts elevating. Lately, he’s been running into trouble, and the pitch to [Yasmani] Grandal was up and in.”

With Otto landing on the COVID-IL, the team simply ran out of right-handed arms at a point when they needed them most.

“We were right there in it,” Woodward said.