Their offense didn’t exactly rough up nemesis Sonny Gray on Tuesday night, and their pitchers weren’t exactly dominant while allowing only five hits.
But the Texas Rangers managed to squeak out a 2-1 victory over the Oakland A’s by doing just a tick more than their opponent.
Whether it was collecting a key hit with a runner in scoring position or making a key pitch in a tight spot, the Rangers pulled it off and ran their road record this season to an MLB-best 20-12.
And there’s this: The second-place Rangers are only two games behind division-leading Houston.
Mitch Moreland homered to start the sixth, Prince Fielder delivered a two-out blooper for the game’s first run, and Nick Martinez, Tanner Scheppers and, yes, even Ross Detwiler made big pitches to hold Oakland in check.
“Just enough,” manager Jeff Banister said. “Sometimes just enough is just enough.”
Fielder snapped Gray’s scoreless streak over the Rangers at 26 1/3 innings with a two-out blooper that fell into left field and scored Delino DeShields, who had tripled two batters earlier.
Up only 1-0 an inning later, Martinez allowed a leadoff double to Josh Reddick and a deep flyball to Ben Zobrist that pushed Reddick to third. But he got no further as Martinez got Stephen Vogt to bounce into a drawn-in Hanser Alberto at second base, and Billy Butler also grounded to Alberto to end the threat.
“That’s a big part of the game right there,” Banister said. “We got the hit they didn’t get.”
Oakland threatened again in the fifth, when a hit batsman, a walk and a Martinez error loaded the bases with two outs. Reddick, though, bounced to Alberto to end the threat and preserve the 1-0 lead.
Moreland opened the sixth moments later with a 457-foot shot to center of Gray.
“He’s a competitor out there. He’s a great pitcher,” Moreland said. “We only got two tonight, but it was more than them.”
Martinez (5-2) was finished after six innings despite allowing only one hit. He needed 103 pitches, though, against an A’s lineup that frequently pushes pitch counts. But Martinez felt like he did earlier in the season, when he commanded his fastball.
“I felt great,” he said. “I went back to the type of pitcher I am, attacking hitters on both sides of the plate.”
The bullpen encountered trouble quickly, as Jon Edwards yielded a one-out single and a walk. Ross Detwiler, sent to the bullpen after an ineffective run in the rotation, entered and uncorked a wild pitch, but got Billy Burns to fly to shallow center field.
The A’s sent pinch-hitter Josh Phegley, a .333 hitter against lefties, in place of Reddick, and Detwiler battled back for a strikeout to end the threat.
Detwiler, though, was undone in the eighth by a Zobrist flyball that DeShields lost in the lights for a leadoff double. Vogt followed with a soft single to center that just scored Zobrist to make it 2-1.
With four straight right-handed hitters due, righty Scheppers replaced Detwiler and made another big pitch. He threw a first-pitch sinker to Billy Butler, and the slow-footed designated hitter bounced into a double play.
Scheppers then froze Brett Lawrie with a slider to end the inning and set up Shawn Tolleson, who worked around a two-out single for his eighth save and scored another gold star for the no-roles bullpen.
“It got a little dicey late,” Banister said. “No defined roles is really a mentality. It’s about when your name is called, come in an do what you do best. It’s important for them to understand that.”
The bullpen got the outs it needed to get, just as Martinez got out of two jams when he needed to make pitch and just as Fielder and Moreland did their job against Gray.
It was just enough.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760