Rangers notes: Three outs all that matter to closer Joe Nathan

Posted Wednesday, May. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Joe Nathan was ready to get back to work Wednesday morning less than 24 hours after a hair-rising 31-pitch 10th inning to close out the Texas Rangers’ 6-5 victory Tuesday night.

Oakland scored once against Nathan after the Rangers had taken a 6-4 lead on solo homers by Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland, and the A’s had two at-bats with the bases loaded but couldn’t tie or win the game.

Nathan is 12 for 12 in save opportunities this season, though only three of them have come after 1-2-3 innings. But he keeps getting the final three outs.

“That’s the way it goes,” said Nathan, who tied Goose Gossage for 19th on the all-time saves list. “Some aren’t going to be easy. I don’t remember many against these guys that have been easy. There aren’t many times I’ve gone through 1-2-3.”

The Rangers aren’t seeking another closer, nor do they have one. Manager Ron Washington said he wants to keep setup man Tanner Scheppers working in the eighth inning, and Joakim Soria is throwing at only 60 to 90 feet while recovering from a pectoral strain.

Washington said that the final two outs showed Nathan’s true mettle. He was at his best during the tightest spot of the game and came out of it with the desired result — three outs and a win.

“If you ever wanted to find out what Joe Nathan is about, it was last night,” Washington said. “He’s not always going to put us in those situations, but when it materialized, he got us off the field.

“He’s saving games.”

Speaking of Scheppers…

Tanner Scheppers worked two scoreless innings for the win Tuesday night, improving to 3-0 and lowering his ERA to 0.45. That was the best by a qualifying reliever in the American League entering Tuesday and tied for the major league best with Pittsburgh’s Mark Melancon.

The biggest difference for Scheppers, who got the final two outs Wednesday, has been the sinking movement on his fastball, something he learned last year in his debut season that he needed to have. Velocity can only take a pitcher so far.

“You kind of find out what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “I’ve switched to predominantly two-seamers. I realized that straight fastballs last year, even though they maybe were harder, they got hit a lot further. The Rangers preach location and movement, so I’ve been focusing on that.”

Surging Moreland to drop

Mitch Moreland entered Wednesday as the major league leader in homers (six) and slugging percentage (.796) in May, with much of that damage done from either the fifth or sixth spot in the lineup.

But despite being the Rangers’ hottest hitter, Moreland will be dropped a spot once catcher A.J. Pierzynski comes off the disabled list Tuesday. Ron Washington prefers having Pierzynski’s experienced bat higher in the order.

“He’s going to drop down to wherever I feel he fits, even with his hot streak,” Washington said. “I’ve got other guys in that lineup who are going to hit higher. That’s all.”

Moreland saw his seven-game hitting streak snapped Wednesday but is hitting .290 thanks to hits in 18 of his past 23 games.


• As of Wednesday afternoon, some 12,000 tickets were still available for the Justin Verlander-Yu Darvish game Thursday night at Rangers Ballpark. About 6,500 were left for Friday, 2,500 for Saturday and 11,500 for Sunday.

• The Rangers signed right-hander Scott Richmond to a minor league contract. He opened the season with the Lotte Giants in Korea and will report to extended spring training before joining Triple A Round Rock. Richmond has 36 big-league career games with Toronto.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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