ARLINGTON, Texas — It had been a while since the Rangers’ bullpen had to protect a lead, but the Rangers’ relief staff showed no signs of rust in Monday’s 8-7 win over Oakland.
The bullpen retired the first 16 batters faced and helped the Rangers’ offense, which finally showed some life, reclaim the lead for good.
“They settled it down and gave us a chance to keep grinding, which we did,” manager Ron Washington said.
The chief settler was Neal Cotts, who inherited a runner after the A’s scored six runs off starter Nick Tepesch in the fourth inning.
Cotts coaxed an out from the first batter he faced, then blanked the A’s in the fifth and sixth innings to set up the late inning trio of Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan.
“Tep had a rough fourth,” Washington said. “Cotts came in and settled that inning down, then gave us two more innings. Robbie came in and got us through seven, Schep got us through the eighth and Joe got us through the ninth.
“If those guys don’t do what they did, it might’ve blew the bullpen up.”
Instead, the Rangers’ bomb squad defused the situation and the Rangers turned a 6-3 deficit into an 8-7 lead heading into the ninth.
“Whenever we come in there, you just want to be able to stop it and get yourself back in the dugout,” Cotts said. “I think we had three runs by then. Obviously we can get some runs. Just hopefully stop it there and hope the offense can build on a lead or tie it up.”
Cotts earned the win and saw his ERA fall to 0.60 in 13 relief appearances. None of the nine baserunners he’s inherited have scored.
“We take pride in going out there and keeping the ballgame where it’s at and keeping the runners from scoring,” Cotts said. “It’s definitely a pride thing.”
The left-handed Cotts faced seven batters, four of them lefties. He struck out the lefty Brandon Moss for his only K, and got a nice sliding catch from center fielder Leonys Martin on a sinking liner from Seth Smith.
“He’s got pretty good life on his fastball and his cutter, and you know he ran through some left-handers,” Washington said. “That was big right there.”
Ross recorded two strikeouts in the seventh and extended his scoreless streak to 6.1 innings.
Scheppers was perfect again in the eighth. Opponents have batted .118 against him in his last 23 games.
Nathan made for a nail-biting ninth by allowing two hits and a walk and allowing just his second run in 14 appearances. He also cashed in his 21st save in 22 opportunities.
With the A’s bats calmed by Cott’s performance in middle relief, the back end of the bullpen was able to get that winning feeling back for the Rangers, who had lost six in a row.
“My fastball was good,” Cotts said. “I threw strikes and competed against them. I was aggressive.” Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire