May 22, 2013

Ross Wolf’s first MLB win lifts Rangers over A’s 3-1

30-year-old right-hander holds hot-hitting A’s to one run over five innings.

Ross Wolf planned to call it a career after this season, but those plans have been put on hold.

Winning in the major leagues, as Wolf found out, can make you think twice.

Wolf made the most of another opportunity in the big leagues on Wednesday afternoon, throwing five-plus innings of one-run ball to lead the Rangers to a 3-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

Texas jumped to an early lead on homers by David Murphy and Adrian Beltre in the first inning, and Wolf and impressive bullpen work made it stand. Neal Cotts, who, like Wolf, had almost quit the game, was part of the bullpen trio that stepped up as the Rangers avoided being swept and snapped the A’s five-game winning streak.

Wolf won his first big-league game in his first big-league start, and got the customary beer shower afterward. It was well-deserved for the 30-year-old right-hander, who has spent the majority of his 12 years in the minor leagues (476 appearances). He had brief big-league stints with Miami in 2007 and Oakland in 2010.

“It ranks up there with my kids being born,” said Wolf, who got the starting nod after Nick Tepesch was slowed by a blister issue.

“Honestly, I was going to retire after this year if I didn’t get called up, but to get the opportunity to start and be on a winning team like this is remarkable. It’s surreal.”

Wolf had his own remarkable moments in the game with two Houdini-esque escapes.

He started the game with three perfect innings, but ran into trouble in the fourth with runners at second and third and one out. He got out of it after allowing only one run on a sacrifice fly by Brandon Moss.

Wolf topped himself an inning later. Oakland had runners at second and third with no outs, but didn’t score. Elvis Andrus made a nice catch in shallow left field on a flare by Eric Sogard with the runner holding at third.

Wolf didn’t see the catch live but called the replay of it “awesome.”

“Every time someone hits a ball around me, I think I can get it,” Andrus said. “I was really happy I could make that play.”

Wolf then retired Adam Rosales on an infield pop-up and got Coco Crisp to ground out.

Wolf started the sixth and the first two batters reached on a walk and an error, ending his day after five-plus innings. But that paved the way for another feel-good story, Cotts, to shine in his second appearance.

Cotts, the 33-year-old left-hander who hadn’t pitched in the big leagues in almost four years until Tuesday, struck out the next three batters to end the A’s threat. He worked around a leadoff double in a scoreless seventh.

The journeys back to the big leagues for Wolf and Cotts have been impressive, and nobody knows that better than their teammates.

“So happy for Wolfy and so happy for Neal Cotts,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “It was a great game, especially after losing the first two games of the series.”

The Rangers, who were shut out on three hits Tuesday, took an early 3-0 lead in the first inning. Andrus led off with a single and Murphy followed with a homer to right. Two batters later, Beltre belted his 10th homer over the center-field fence.

That was all the Rangers could produce, as A’s starter Jarrod Parker responded by throwing six scoreless innings. But, in a series where the offense struggled, Wolf, Cotts, Robbie Ross and Joe Nathan made the early lead stand to salvage the finale.

Cotts has quickly established himself as a valuable bullpen piece, but nobody knows what the future holds for Wolf.

Manager Ron Washington said the team hasn’t made a decision, although Wolf certainly bolstered his chances of staying in the rotation and making a second start in one of the Rangers’ doubleheader games Monday in Arizona.

The unknown future, though, didn’t spoil the present for Wolf or anyone else in the clubhouse.

“It meant everything to anyone that has been in baseball that has a dream,” Washington said. “His dream was to come into the major leagues and be successful and today was one of those days. He was just so thrilled for the opportunity when he arrived here, and I’m very happy for him.”

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