Pitching helps Rangers sweep twin bill

Pitching helps Rangers sweep twin bill

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have two pitchers competing for one spot in the rotation. On Tuesday night, both made strong cases to be awarded that spot.

More importantly, Dustin Nippert and Brandon McCarthy also combined to pitch Texas to a doubleheader sweep over Toronto.

Nippert allowed two runs in six innings to the Blue Jays as the Rangers won the first game, 5-2. Then McCarthy took the mound for the Rangers for the first time since June 4 and was even better in another 5-2 victory. Both games were saved by Frank Francisco, who now has 21 saves on the season.

"Those are two big wins right there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Josh Hamilton smashed two home runs in the second game, the first time he has gone deep since Aug. 8 against the Blue Jays -- a span of 23 games and 99 at-bats.

McCarthy, who missed three months because of a stress fracture in his right shoulder blade, had a one-hit shutout through six before giving up a one-out RBI double to Lyle Overbay in the seventh. That was his last batter and he walked off to a standing ovation, holding a 5-1 lead.

"This means a good win for us and a good outing for me," McCarthy said. "I feel I'm on the right path as far as my mechanics. There are a lot of positives. I haven't had a sore arm and I feel more consistent in my mechanics. That allowed me to throw a lot of offspeed pitches for strikes."

McCarthy, who is 6-2 with a 4.61 ERA on the season, spent his time on the disabled list reworking his mechanics and hoping to find a way to avoid the injuries of the past three seasons. A 2.08 ERA in his past four rehab starts suggested he was headed in the right direction but this was his first start against a Major League team.

"I knew from the rehab starts I was where I needed to be," McCarthy said. "Coming back into a big league game, I was wondering if there was going to be some anxiety and nervousness, but I was able to overcome that and get into a groove."

Nippert was significantly better than he was in his last start in Yankee Stadium on Thursday, when he lasted just 3 2/3 innings. He was lucky in that game, because he only allowed two runs despite giving up four hits and walking seven. On Tuesday night, he allowed five hits and just one walk.

"I was able to throw my curveball for strikes," Nippert said. "In New York, I think I threw one curve for a strike. Today, I was able to get it over and that set up my fastball."

Washington said Nippert was not pitching for a spot in the rotation.

"We just needed him to take control of the ballgame, and he did," Washington said. "We're going to make a decision -- what he did today doesn't have anything to do with it."

But the Rangers do have to decide whether it will be Nippert or McCarthy when this spot comes back up in the rotation on Monday in Cleveland.

"We'll make that decision and let you know," Washington said. "I haven't made that decision yet."

Nippert is now 3-2 with a 4.43 ERA in nine starts. But he is also 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA in four relief appearances. He is capable and willing to do either role.

"As long as I'm up here, that's all that matters," Nippert said. "This is a fun team to be on. Whether start or pitch out of the bullpen, I don't care whatever they want me to do."

A home run by Ian Kinsler in the first and a two-run single by Chris Davis in the fourth allowed Nippert to leave with a 3-2 lead. Neftali Feliz took over and did his thing, retiring six straight hitters through the seventh and eighth innings.

Feliz has now thrown 17 1/3 scoreless innings since giving up his only run on Aug. 5. He struck out four of six and has 26 strikeouts against one walk in 19 2/3 innings since being called up from the Minor Leagues.

Reliever C.J. Wilson did some heavy lifting in the second game. The Rangers were leading 5-2 in the eighth inning, but the Blue Jays loaded the bases with one out. Wilson responded by striking out Lyle Overbay and getting Vernon Wells on a grounder back to the mound.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.