BALTIMORE -- Rangers starter Kevin Millwood, pitching for the first time in 12 days, had some of his best stuff of the season on a hot and humid Cheasapeake Bay on Friday night. His only problem was he couldn't carry it for as long as he wanted. "I was tired," Millwood said. "The extra time off -- missing my last start and the All-Star Game -- was good from a strength standpoint but not good for my stamina."
That's where reliever Rick Bauer and catcher Rod Barajas stepped in to help the Rangers finish off a taut, well-played 2-1 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards. Bauer pitched a 1-2-3 frame at a crucial moment of the seventh, and Barajas threw out Brian Roberts trying to steal second in the eighth inning to save Francisco Cordero from deep trouble. Both were defining moments after the Rangers won for only the third time in the last nine seasons when getting four hits or less. Millwood, who missed his last start because of soreness in his right bicep muscle, went six innings and 78 pitches, the fewest he has thrown in the last two months. He led, 2-0, into the sixth, managed to hold the Orioles to just one run in that inning after allowing a couple of leadoff hits, and then told manager Buck Showalter that was all he had. "I appreciate him being honest with us," Showalter said. "I asked [pitching coach Mark Connor] if he was being honest with us or alerting us to something. I hope it's the first. We'll see when he has that work day come up. He didn't have that look in his eye like something was wrong." Millwood, now 9-5 with a 4.66 ERA, made it clear there was nothing wrong physically. All things considered, he considered it a positive step toward getting back to full strength. "Actually my mechanics felt as good tonight as they have all year," Millwood said. "My arm felt good. I felt strong. With how I felt physically, no pain, and feeling like my mechanics are where they need to be, it was a really good night for me." Said Showalter: "We might have taken him to the seventh, but we wanted to be cautious." There was another reason why the Rangers could pull their No. 1 starter after six. Bauer has emerged as a reliable option for the seventh and he kept the Rangers up, 2-1, by retiring the side in order. The seventh inning was a role that Antonio Alfonseca and Frank Francisco were supposed to fill this year, but neither are around. Instead, Bauer has proved to be their best seventh-inning pitcher in front of Cordero and closer Akinori Otsuka. "I'd like that job for sure and the only way to do it is to pitch like that," Bauer said. "I'm just going out there and putting myself in a position where I get the hitter to swing at my pitches by getting ahead in the counts." Bauer has a 0.71 ERA in his last 11 outings, and the opposition is hitting .171 off him. "We talked in Spring Training about how we liked his arm," Connor said. "He's never had consistency of success at this level that he should. But he had a good Spring Training and he's carried it into the season. Now he's pitched himself into a prominent role and in important situations." Cordero took over in the eighth, but his inning wasn't so clean. He struck out Nick Markakis to start the inning but Roberts, who has 22 steals on the year, singled into center. That brought up rookie Brandon Fahey, and Roberts didn't waste time. He was off on the first pitch. "At that point, with one out, you try to get into scoring position," Roberts said. "It's hard when you get into the late-inning situation. These relievers were pitching pretty good, throwing 98. You can't count on three hits in a row all the time." But Cordero got a high fastball that Barajas was able to handle, and his throw was right on line to nail Roberts. "When you have a team like this that's aggressive on the basepaths and it's a one-run game, you've got to be ready if they do go," Barajas said. "I was just trying to be quick and get rid of the ball quickly." Said Showalter: "I thought [second baseman Ian Kinsler] made a great tag. ... Everything had to be perfect there." That saved the Rangers, because Fahey singled to center. But Cordero got Melvin Mora on a grounder to Hank Blalock, and the Rangers skipped off the field with their 2-1 lead intact. Otsuka made it stand up in the ninth for his 18th save.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.