BOSTON -- They went to Cleveland and Toronto and couldn't muster a winning record. They couldn't do it on road trips against Tampa Bay and Houston or Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. But they have done just that against two teams that were 1-2 as far as having the best records in baseball when this northern jaunt began. And it's not even over yet. Having reliable starting pitching and a lights-out bullpen certainly does do wonders, and that's what's driving the Rangers' road warriors right now as they clinched their first winning road trip of the season with a 2-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon.
Kameron Loe and four relievers combined on the seven-hitter as the Rangers won for only the third time in 30 games when they've scored fewer than four runs. Eric Gagne, filling in when Akinori Otsuka came up with some stiffness in his elbow, came up with his first four-out save of the season, and the Rangers are now 29-0 when leading after eight innings. The Rangers have also taken two of three from the Red Sox just like they did from the Tigers at Comerica Park. They still have one game left against the Red Sox on Monday night before they get back to Arlington. "This is giving us a lot of confidence," outfielder Frank Catalanotto said. "You come to the ballpark and you're having fun, you have a chance to win and you're confident. That's the way it is for us. We're beating good teams and we're winning one-run ballgames. That shows a lot about this team." The Rangers haven't had a winning road trip since going 6-5 on a four-city trek in July of last year. The Rangers have also won 10 of their last 15 games. "I just hope we can get out of here with smiles on our faces," manager Ron Washington said. "The main thing is we're playing good baseball. It doesn't matter if the other team is better as long as you play better than the other team. That's why we're winning. But our pitching has been good." Two elements that have been at the top of the pitching list were in play on Sunday: Kameron Loe and the bullpen. The Rangers' 15-game resurgence began on June 14 when Loe beat the Pirates and he won his fourth straight game on Sunday, holding the Red Sox to one run on six hits in six innings. He is 4-0 with a 1.95 ERA in his last four starts. "We're just playing great baseball as a team and we're all enjoying playing together," Loe said. "Now that we're stringing some wins together it's great. Winning is a lot cooler than losing. We struggled a lot in the beginning and that was frustrating, but now we're putting some wins together it's really big for us." Loe turned over a 2-1 lead to the bullpen after six innings, and C.J. Wilson, Frank Francisco, Otsuka and Gagne made it stand up. Rangers relievers have combined for 11 scoreless innings against the Red Sox in the first three games of the series. "We're all just settling into our roles and getting a feel for when we're going into a game," Wilson said. Wilson retired the first two batters in the seventh, then gave up a single to Dustin Pedroia. That prompted Washington to bring in Francisco for a righty-vs.-righty matchup against Kevin Youkilis. But Francisco walked Youkilis, forcing him to face the dangerous left-handed bat of David Ortiz. Francisco was up to the challenge and struck out Ortiz in one of the biggest moments of the afternoon. "I just did what I was supposed to, throw quality pitches," Francisco said. "I wasn't trying to strike him out, I was just trying to get him out." Otsuka came on in the eighth, but had to leave after a two-out infield hit by Jason Varitek put runners on first and second. Otsuka said he has some discomfort in the forearm area, but doesn't think it's anything serious. "A couple of days and I'll be good," Otsuka said. He won't be available on Monday night and Gagne won't be either, not after having to rush into the game on the spur of the moment. He wanted to warm up in the bullpen, but the umpires made him do it on the mound and the crowd booed at the delay. "It was weird," Gagne said. "I had never done that before. I didn't know what the rule was." Gagne hadn't pitched more than one inning in an outing since Sept. 26, 2004, but he handled this one just fine. He needed just three pitches to get Alex Cora to ground out to end the eighth. A one-out walk to Pedroia added to the tension in the ninth, but Youkilis flied to right and Ortiz popped out to end the game. Washington doesn't want Gagne pitching more than one inning but said, "I had no choice really. I'm just trying to save the game right there. We looked at what we had and knew that we were bringing him in the ninth. We figured that if he can close out the eighth, it wouldn't bother him." Nothing seems to be bothering the Rangers right now on the road trip against the best in the American League.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.