The Texas Rangers’ run to the American League West title last year was marked by a dominant performance from relievers down the stretch.
The year may be different, but the 2016 season started with similar results.
After seven strong innings from ace left-hander Cole Hamels in Monday’s season opener against Seattle, the bullpen once again shut the door in the 3-2 victory.
They’ve been a beast out there. They’re capable of us matching up when we want to. I think we’ve got some guys that are pretty solid for any part of the lineup.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister on his bullpen
A Texas bullpen that has eight relievers needed only two of them Monday as Jake Diekman’s perfect eighth was followed by a perfect ninth from closer Shawn Tolleson.
“They’ve been a beast out there,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “They’re capable of us matching up when we want to. I think we’ve got some guys that are pretty solid for any part of the lineup. It allows us to be patient if we need to.”
There was no need to match up Monday. After Hamels allowed two runs on four hits, Diekman threw 17 pitches in the eighth inning. Tolleson, the club’s pitcher of the year in 2015 after his 35-save season, struck out two and got a great defensive play from Rougned Odor in his 12-pitch inning.
Banister said he had right-hander Sam Dyson warming in the ninth in case the Mariners were able to tie the game against Tolleson, but that wasn’t necessary as nine of his pitches went for strikes.
Jake Diekman and Shawn Tolleson combined for two perfect innings Monday, throwing 29 pitches, 19 for strikes, and ringing up three strikeouts.
“It was very exciting to win Opening Day,” said Tolleson, who didn’t record his first save in 2015 until May 20. “I felt really good. I threw a lot of fastballs and a couple of changeups. I felt good with my fastball better than anything else, so I kept throwing it.”
Tolleson needed a little help when the ninth started after Kyle Seager hit a grounder past first baseman Mitch Moreland. But Odor made a diving play and threw to Tolleson, who was covering first. Tolleson then struck out the final two batters.
Diekman, who was a big piece for the bullpen after coming over from Philadelphia as part of the Hamels trade last year, continued his dominance of the Mariners. For his career, Seattle batters are now just 2 for 28 against him and he has 12 strikeouts.
Diekman isn’t concerned with how the Rangers use him in relief. He just wants to have a role.
“Getting thrown in right away was fun,” he said. “It was a great day, a great game to watch. [Seattle starter] Felix [Hernandez] has had eight or nine Opening Day starts, and those guys are aces for a reason. Watching their pitch location and the way the pitch to hitters, they’re good. You want to come in and contribute.”