Pen pals: Relievers deliver in clutch situations
BOSTON -- Shawn Tolleson got his wish. The Rangers took a one-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth Wednesday night at Fenway Park for the first time in his Major League career.
The Rangers may be going without roles in the bullpen, but there was Tolleson with the label of "closer" all over him trying to convert the first ninth-inning save opportunity of his career.
"It was fun. ... I had a blast," said Tolleson, after holding off one more Red Sox threat to close out the 2-1 win. "It was fun. It was exciting. It was everything you think of. Everybody else had gone in and done their job. [The Red Sox] didn't make it easy. I had to make pitches."
Tolleson was the fourth reliever used to hold down the win for Phil Klein, the converted reliever who was making his first Major League start. Klein held the Red Sox to one run in 5 1/3 innings and then had to watch his former bullpen buddies stave off one threat after another. Tolleson was hardly the only pitcher who didn't find it easy.
"Watching those last few innings got a little hairy," Klein said, "but the bullpen came in and did an outstanding job keeping it together."
Alex Claudio, Tanner Scheppers, Ross Ohlendorf and Tolleson combined to give the Rangers 3 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. Rangers relievers have pitched 10 2/3 scoreless innings over their past three games.
"That's our job, going out and putting up zeros," Scheppers said. "We have a great group of guys, we're all focused, we want to keep this going."
The Red Sox had nine hits on the evening and Rangers pitchers walked three batters, but Boston stranded 12 baserunners and went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The only hit did not score a run. It just loaded the bases in the first tight situation the bullpen faced.
Klein left with one out and two in the sixth. Claudio came in and gave up a single to pinch-hitter Shane Victorino that loaded the bases. Claudio then struck out Brock Holt and Scheppers retired Xander Bogaerts on a line drive to center to end the inning.
Scheppers also ran into trouble in the seventh as Mookie Betts singled with one out and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Dustin Pedroia followed with a line drive to right, but Shin-Soo Choo made a terrific catch for the second out. After David Ortiz was intentionally walked, Hanley Ramirez lined out to second baseman Thomas Field, who was playing him straight up the middle.
"It's all about putting zeros on the board," manager Jeff Banister said. "We don't have the perfect bullpen, but we do have pitchers with weapons. I can't say enough about our bullpen."
The situation was repeated in the ninth after Ohlendorf pitched a scoreless eighth.
Tolleson came in and got Blake Swihart on a grounder to second, but Betts doubled into the right-center gap. That brought up Pedroia, who launched a long fly ball to left that Delino DeShields -- having a terrific game defensively -- ran down at the wall.
Betts, who was almost doubled up, stayed at second and again Ortiz was walked intentionally. That brought up Ramirez, and he hit a hard grounder right at Fields to end the game.
"It was a little bit different," Tolleson said. "The fact that it was a one-run game made it different. The fact that it was in Fenway ... It was loud, cold, a lot of factors made it different. But it was fun."