Luke Jackson and Alex Claudio are on the Texas Rangers’ roster because the powers that be believe they are capable of getting major-league hitters out and winning games, and sometimes they will have to do it in tight situations.
The series finale Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians was one of those times, after manager Jeff Banister determined that the overworked primary bullpen pieces would not be used ahead of an off day.
Though there were no guarantees that those pieces — Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman, Matt Bush and Tony Barnette — would have fared any better than Jackson and Claudio did in a 5-4 loss in 11 innings to the Indians, the decision to opt for a rest day was at the heart of the Rangers’ seventh walk-off loss of the season.
“We’ve had some games where the back end of our bullpen has had the workload, coming off a couple games where we really needed to close some games down,” Banister said. “But, yeah, [it was] the protection of those guys going into the off day and the ability to get them a couple days down and be ready for the weekend series.”
27 Appearances this season for Rangers closer Sam Dyson, second-most in the league. Jake Diekman has 24 appearances.
Yan Gomes won it for Cleveland with a chopper through the middle two pitches after Lonnie Chisenhall opened the 11th with a double off Claudio (1-1). Jackson surrendered a two-out run in the eighth that broke a 3-3 tie, but the Rangers tied it in the ninth and watched Jackson work another 1 1/3 innings.
The offense went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position, including a Jared Hoying pop-out in with two outs in the 11th, after entering the game with an American League-leading .300 average in those situations.
“We really needed to get some runs,” Banister said. “These guys have been really good with runners in scoring position, and we just didn’t break through tonight.”
Cole Hamels allowed three runs in seven innings, with two of the runs coming on a first-inning homer by former Rangers fan favorite and All-Star Mike Napoli. Hamels didn’t issue another run until the fifth, when Rajai Davis beat out an infield hit with two-outs and scored on a double by Jason Kipnis to break a 2-2 tie.
But it was a first-inning walk to Kipnis two batters ahead of Napoli that peeved Hamels.
“Any time anybody you’re walking is scoring, I think that’s the tough part,” he said. “You’re going to give your hits and you’re going to give up some runs here and there, but when you’re giving up a run on guys that are walking, I think that’s the toughest part to swallow.”
Ryan Rua pulled the Rangers into a 3-3 tie in the seventh with a solo homer, and Hamels returned to the mound at 101 pitches but got through the seventh on only nine more.
Jackson was the choice for the eighth rather than Diekman, who has 24 appearances this season, or Bush, who has appeared in 10 of 17 games since joining the team, and Jackson quickly got the first two outs before Jose Ramirez doubled to left-center and came home on Juan Uribe’s single to center for a 4-3 lead.
The Rangers, though, opened with a walk to Mitch Moreland and a single by Elvis Andrus that moved pinch runner Hanser Alberto to third. Hoying, pinch-hitting for Rua, bounced into a fielder’s choice to bring home Alberto for a 4-4 tie.
Jackson worked a scoreless ninth, pitching around a two-out walk to Kipnis, and allowed a leadoff walk in the 10th to Napoli, who was erased by a fielder’s choice. Claudio entered and got the final to outs two extend the game.
Had the Rangers taken the lead in the 11th, Diekman would have tried to get the save instead of Dyson, whose 27 appearances are the second-most in the league. Instead, Claudio issued a slicing double to Chisenhall to open the 11th, and he scored two pitches later as Gomes, who fouled off a bunt on the first pitch, chopped a single through the middle.
Jackson knows his role and is glad to have it. He thought he should have done better.
The first inning I left some pitches up. I threw the ball well after that, but other than that I made some wrong pitches that cost us a run.
Rangers reliever Luke Jackson
“The first inning I left some pitches up,” Jackson said. “I threw the ball well after that, but other than that I made some wrong pitches that cost us a run. I need to capitalize and do better the next time out.”
The next time for Jackson or Claudio might not be until later in the season. Shawn Tolleson will be reinstated from the MLB family emergency medical list Friday, and Jackson and Claudio are candidates to be optioned to Triple A Round Rock to create a roster spot.
Banister liked the way they pitched at times, especially Jackson with a three-pitch mix. They were put in a tough situation but a situation where they have to get big-league hitters.
The series finale Wednesday was one of those times.
“There’s some other guys we’ve used before that need to be able to pitch in those kinds of situations, too, to allow the kind of rest that necessary for some of those ... back end guys to get time down,” Banister said. “We had not been extremely successful in those types of situations. I felt like both of those guys actually pitched well.”
Rangers vs. Mariners
7:05 p.m. Friday, FSSW