Sam Dyson feels fine, or at least that’s what the reliever with the most appearances in the major leagues said late Wednesday night.
He has been used and used again out of necessity after the Texas Rangers’ preseason bullpen plans came apart in late April and early May.
The Rangers wouldn’t be where they are — the best team in the American League, tied with the most wins in MLB — without him.
To Dyson, his blown save in a disastrous ninth inning against the New York Yankees was just one of those baseball things. His pitching produced only one out in a 9-7 walk-off loss in which the Rangers led by four with three outs to go.
But after manager Jeff Banister has started trying to rest his main relievers, each blown lead suggests that the early success has had a price and that the Rangers could be battling bullpen issues the rest of the way.
Matt Bush and Dyson allowed six runs in the ninth inning, with the final five coming on a three-run homer by Brian McCann and a two-run shot by Didi Gregorius, and the Rangers’ four-game winning streak came to a shocking end.
“I attacked the strike zone and threw some quality pitches down in the zone, and that’s the end of it,” Dyson said. “I feel fine. I like consistent work. Those guys go out there and play every day. I try to do my part. I just didn’t get the job done.”
The Rangers scored six times in six innings against Masahiro Tanaka, with three coming in a four-run third on a bases-loaded double by Nomar Mazara. Rougned Odor and Adrian Beltre hit solo homers to start the sixth and the eighth.
Nick Martinez was in line for the win even though he walked five in five-plus innings and threw 46 of his 84 pitches for balls. Some of the walks, he said, were by design as he pitched around batters for more favorable matchups.
It worked for the most part, though a leadoff walk and a single in the sixth led to his exit with a 6-1 lead. The walk turned into a run against Cesar Ramos, who finished out the sixth, worked a scoreless seventh but allowed a solo homer to McCann in the eighth to cut the Rangers’ lead to 7-3.
Bush got the final two outs of the eighth and returned for the ninth. He broke Rob Refsnyder’s bat but saw the flare fall for a single, and Jacoby Ellsbury walked to put the first two Yankees on.
Bush was making his 22 appearance since joining the Rangers on May 13.
“My arm feels tremendous right now,” said Bush, who was the losing pitcher Friday as the Rangers blew a three-run ninth-inning lead to Boston. “This is the strongest I’ve ever felt in my life pitching. Today it came down to I let two guys on base without getting an out. I didn’t get the job done. It didn’t have anything to do with how I feel.”
Banister went to Dyson, the closer who hadn’t blown a save since becoming the Rangers’ closer May 18. But he issued a single to Brett Gardner, and Refsnyder scored as center fielder Ian Desmond bobbled the ball.
Dyson got Alex Rodriguez on a sharp liner to second base, but McCann cracked his second homer of the game to forge a 7-7 tie.
“He put a barrel on it and put it over the fence,” Dyson said. “It was on the bottom quadrant down and in, he dropped the head on it, and it went out of the park.”
Dyson walked Starlin Castro, and Gregorius hit the next pitch, a changeup into the right-field seats to end it.
Banister said afterward that he was attempting to stay away from Dyson with a four-run lead, though in the past the Rangers have used their closer up by four. But Dyson’s workload and the Rangers’ cushion in the AL West, now nine games over Houston, have altered their thinking.
“The save for me is getting the last out,” Banister said. “In this situation now, where we’ve got ourselves where we need to be, we try to stay away from those types of situations. We’re going to have to be able to close those games out also.
“I have no concerns with Sam.”
The Rangers’ bullpen will get some needed relief after the All-Star break as Keone Kela returns from the disabled list. Tanner Scheppers is also expected to provide some innings in the second half.
But the Rangers will seek a trade for bullpen help as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
For now, though, they will continue to walk a fine line as their key bullpen pieces possibly start to show signs of having a heavy first-half workload.