Some questioned the decision for the Texas Rangers to use Phil Klein, the possessor of four career minor-league starts, to take on the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night.
Those same critics probably can’t wait to seen Klein taken the mound again next week.
Klein allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings in his first major-league start, and four relievers combined for one electrifying escape job the rest of the way as the Rangers hung on for a 2-1 victory at Fenway Park.
Manager Jeff Banister didn’t commit to Klein to start Monday at Cleveland, but all signs point to a Klein encore after allowing five hits, walking one and striking out four.
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Working on a pitch limit of 95, Klein was pulled after his 81st pitched turned into an error on Adrian Beltre that put runners at first and second with one out in the sixth.
“I can’t say enough about Phil Klein,” Banister said. “A gutsy performance by him against a team he’d never seen before and a lot of hitters he’d never seen.”
The real fun began after he exited. Alex Claudio allowed a pinch-hit single to Shane Victorino to load the bases but rebounded to strike out Brock Holt. Tanner Scheppers entered, and got Xander Bogaerts, who had homered off Klein to start the fifth, on a liner to center.
Scheppers wiggled free again in the seventh, leaving the tying run at second base as Hanley Ramirez lined sharply to a well-positioned Tommy Field.
After Ross Ohlendorf worked around a one-out single in the eighth, Tolleson surrendered a one-out double to Mookie Betts but saw Delino DeShields make another nice play in front of the Green Monster on a liner by Dustin Pedroia.
Tolleson gave David Ortiz an intentional walk, then got Ramirez to bounce to Field to end it.
“They didn’t make it easy on me,” Tolleson said. “But it was fun. I had a blast out there.”
The Red Sox stranded 12 runners, but the Rangers stranded two apiece in the seventh and eighth innings when one hit could have put the game away. The Rangers, though, failed to bring home Leonys Martin home from third with one out in the seventh and couldn’t get DeShields home from third with one out in the eighth.
But they were in a position to win thanks to Klein, who got a sacrifice fly from Elvis Andrus in the second and a homer from Robinson Chirinos to start the third.
Klein retired 11 of the first 13 batters he faced and said he felt fresh in the sixth when removed. Klein had made two start in Triple A Round Rock after the decision to convert him from a reliever, but hadn’t thrown more than 84 pitches and hadn’t gone further than 8 1/3 innings.
“I felt really good, start to finish,” said Klein, who was starting in place of injured left-hander Ross Detwiler. “Just getting that first strike over is always huge for me, and keeping the ball down. Those are the two biggest thing, and the defense bailed me out a few times in the outfield.
DeShields alone made three key plays, the catch on Pedroia’s drive in the ninth and two in the second. Playing left field at Fenway Park isn’t easy, but the rookie had no issues and wasn’t going to let Pedroia get on base.
“I would have concussed myself to get that ball,” he said. “Once I realized it wasn’t hit as hard as I thought it was, I got control of the ball and got it in as fast as I could.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760