Gil LeBreton

Bad blood, bad relief pitching spoils Rangers’ night

Rangers manager Jeff Banister, right, argues with umpire James Hoye after relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen’s ejection for hitting Mariners’ Chris Iannetta with a pitch in the eighth inning Tuesday.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister, right, argues with umpire James Hoye after relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen’s ejection for hitting Mariners’ Chris Iannetta with a pitch in the eighth inning Tuesday. AP

Bad blood — and poor relief pitching — flowed freely in the late innings Tuesday night.

No transcripts were provided, but high-definition TV apparently does wonders for amateur lip-readers. The cameras caught a salty exchange between Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister and the Seattle Mariners’ Scott Servais, as they both shouted from the fronts of their dugouts.

Such language! Such bad pitching!

There are eight arms, you see, in the Rangers’ bullpen to start the season.

Strength in numbers was the idea.

But after starting pitcher Martin Perez handed over a 2-2 game to the relievers Tuesday after six innings, the reported “best bullpen in club history” turned the finish into a farce.

Seattle won in a late-inning rout 10-2, scoring six times and hitting three home runs in the eighth inning.

After the second homer, struck by Seth Smith — four Seattle batters had just produced a homer, two doubles and another homer — Rangers bullpen newcomer Tom Wilhelmsen riveted Mariners catcher Chris Iannetta in the hip.

Iannetta appeared to bark at Wilhelmsen. Servais appeared to come out of the third base dugout to bark at … Banister? And Banister pointed at Servais and appeared to colorfully tell him to return to the dugout and sit down.

It’s always a spicier scene when the two managers become involved. No punches were thrown but Wilhelmsen, who used to pitch for Seattle, was immediately ejected.

An interesting game had taken an ugly turn.

Until the Rangers called for the bullpen in the seventh inning, the night had been going promisingly well. Perez had thrown 88 pitches and allowed only a home run by Nelson Cruz and a single by Iannetta.

When the base paths turned busy for Perez in the second inning, he appeared to fight through the symptoms that had squandered victories for him before.

He pounded his glove. He flapped his arms. After one contested pitch, Perez appeared to tell home plate umpire Marvin Hudson exactly what he saw.

But he pitched through it. He left after six innings, surrendering only two hits.

The Mariners weren’t supposed to score again. That was the plan, at least. That was the idea behind acquiring Tony Barnette and Wilhelmsen to go with last year’s bullpen pick-ups Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman.

Best bullpen in Rangers’ history, some of us announced.

Oops.

In his office before the game, Banister had tried to explain how he intended to use all eight relievers.

“It gives us an opportunity,” he said, “to avoid stacking up the back to backs.

“We’ll continue to assess how we’re able to use the numbers we have in the bullpen, based on the day, the starter, and so on.”

“I’m going to give our starters an opportunity early on to work out of certain situations.”

Banister gave Cole Hamels freedom to work out of jams on Opening Day, and he allowed Perez to work six strong innings Tuesday.

For the second day in a row, the Rangers appeared to have their feet planted exactly where they wanted them — ready to turn over the game to their trusted bullpen.

Instead, fat pitches and schoolyard shouting broke out.

Banister elected not to shed light upon the squabble after the game. But the exchange with Servais, the Rangers’ former director of player development, had been caught on TV.

Such language. Such bad relief pitching.

That certainly wasn’t in the home team’s plan.

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