Manager Jeff Banister defended himself Sunday morning after many questioned his decision to let closer Shawn Tolleson pitch the 11th inning of the Texas Rangers’ victory Saturday despite having an eight-run lead and on the heels of a stressful 10th inning.
Tolleson was unavailable Sunday for the series finale against the Seattle Mariners after logging 48 pitches, seven of which were intentional balls on the back-to-back walks of Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano in the 10th inning, in the 11-3 win Saturday.
The Rangers’ offense responded with eight runs, the highest-scoring 11th inning in American League history done three times previously. It was a must-win game, and Banister wanted his best reliever on the mound even at the expense of losing him for Sunday.
He also was staying away from left-hander Sam Freeman and right-hander Spencer Patton, and didn’t want to use long-man Anthony Bass or rookie Luke Jackson.
“Tolly still had pitches to throw, and at that time based on where we were in the bullpen, given the emotional roller coaster of that game and where we’ve been in this ballpark before we had a very similar situation where we had a five-run lead and watched it dissipate, those players out there needed their best on the mound to close the game down,” Banister said.
“I know that it’s not the conventional thought process for whoever wrote the Modern Book of Managerial Strategy.”
Banister made reference to an 11-10 loss in a game started by Ross Detwiler in which the Rangers led by five. They were up 10-6 in the eighth when Tanner Scheppers, rookie Keone Kela and deposed closer Neftali Feliz gave up four runs and Feliz lost it in the ninth.
Banister also said that he didn’t want to give the Mariners a spark for Sunday with a potential rally against Jackson, and said that the Rangers were in good shape if a save situation presented itself Sunday for newcomers Sam Dyson or Jake Diekman.
The biggest part of the decision Saturday was to win the game.
“You win ballgames today,” Banister said. “I know everyone wanted to see Luke Jackson in the game. This does not send any message whatsoever for him not coming in the game. This is not about Luke Jackson. This is about winning ballgames, shutting the door on ballgames.”
Napoli on upswing
Mike Napoli was playing every day in Boston after finding something that clicked at the plate, and he wasn’t looking for a trade from the city where he has put down roots.
But he wants to win, and a trade to the Rangers gives him a better chance to do so than it would have with the last-place Red Sox. Napoli is even OK with part-time duty to get another shot at the title.
“I’m going to do whatever they want me to do,” Napoli said. “I want to win. I’m excited to do whatever. When my time’s called, I’m going to go out there and play the game the right way and try to help us win.”
Napoli entered Sunday with a .205 average, and that’s an improvement of 12 points since the All-Star break. He said that he got away from the game, cleared his head and found a routine that allows him to maintain a swing that he simplified by taking out a lot of the movement.
He was batting .258 with a .361 on-base percentage and a .516 slugging percentage in the second half.
“I had a rough couple months, but I feel like I figured some things out,” he said.
The Rangers will not use the off day Monday to keep left-hander Cole Hamels on a five-day schedule, and Hamels is fine with it.
Yovani Gallardo will start Tuesday at Minnesota and be followed by fellow right-hander Nick Martinez and Hamels in the Thursday finale. The decision gives everyone an extra day of rest and satisfies Hamels’ concern of not rocking the boat.
“It’s just being able to come in here and do what I can do and not really change the dynamic too much,” he said. “There’s a way that they’ve approached the pitchers and how to allow them to be at the best they can. I’m just here to provide a day of work and try to go out and win a ballgame no matter if it’s the fifth game or the sixth game.”
Banister said that he hadn’t talked to Hamels directly about his preferred schedule, but wasn’t surprised to learn that Hamels was fine by the decision based on his team-first comments after the July 31 trade from Philadelphia.
Later on, though, the rotation could be manipulated to get Hamels an extra start or a start against a specific opponent.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760