Rangers ride hot hands in bullpen to ALCS

Rangers ride hot hands in bullpen to ALCS

Rangers ride hot hands in bullpen to ALCS
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rangers had roles for each reliever coming into the American League Division Series. That is no longer the case.

Now it's come down to who has the hot hand. "What have you done for me lately?" appears to be the defining law, but it worked on Tuesday afternoon, allowing the Rangers to nail down a 4-3 victory over the Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS.

This time the relief work was much cleaner than in Game 3. This time manager Ron Washington used the combination of Derek Holland, Mike Adams, Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz to work the final four innings and nail down a victory that sent the Rangers to the ALCS for the second straight year.

"It worked out perfectly," Washington said. "It doesn't always work out the way you want it to, but it did today."

Holland, Adams and Ogando were able to retire nine of 10 batters in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. That allowed Feliz to enter with a 4-2 lead. He walked Sean Rodriguez with one out, and let him go to second on defensive indifference. Casey Kotchman followed with a single to right to make it a one-run game.

But Feliz, who had thrown 25 pitches in saving Game 3 on Monday, retired Matt Joyce on a foul pop and Desmond Jennings on a grounder to second to end the game.

"They have such good arms," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "They do a great job with their pitching. You look at this overall series, they beat us by two one-run games here. We know how good they are on the mound, and they just held us down enough. They beat us in some tough, close games."

Starter Matt Harrison earned the victory, holding the Rays to two runs in five innings. But he threw 97 pitches, and Washington thought that was enough. Holland had pitched five innings in Game 2 on Saturday, but the Rangers felt he could give them a couple of innings, if needed, in middle relief.

Holland pitched a scoreless sixth and then retired Joyce on a grounder back to the mound to start the seventh. That's when Washington brought in Adams, who had faced four batters in Game 3 and allowed a home run and three walks.

"Holland was the key," Washington said. "He got [1 1/3 innings] and then we had to get Mike back out there."

Adams was going up against the same guys as in Game 3. Desmond Jennings hit a home run off him on Monday, and B.J. Upton drew a walk. This time Adams got Jennings on a grounder to second baseman Ian Kinsler and struck out Upton.

"That was big for me, getting another chance to get back out there," Adams said. "I wasn't happy about Monday, it's a big disappointment when you let down your teammates like that. To get back out there and get those outs was great."

Ogando started the series as a middle reliever. In Game 4, he replaced Adams as the eighth inning reliever and set down the side in order. Ogando, who was a starter during the regular season, pitched 2 2/3 innings over three relief appearances against the Rays, and allowed one hit while striking out two.

"We were facing a great team, and I had to do my job," Ogando said. "I love it. I love this. I just love that we won."

The bullpen played a big part in that, and Ogando is now a big part of the bullpen again.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.