Bullpen comes through to get Darvish first win
ARLINGTON, Texas — More than 40,000 fans and over 100 media members showed up to Rangers Ballpark on a school night with the hope of seeing something special in Yu Darvish.
It turns out that, four games into the season, what's special about Rangers pitching is the near-perfect performance of the bullpen.
Once again, the bullpen didn't allow a run in the last three innings of Monday's 11-5 win over the Mariners.
The Rangers' offense will get most of the praise for digging Darvish out of a four-run hole in the first inning. Yet it was the bullpen that slammed the door when Darvish left after 5 2/3, allowing the Japanese import to earn the win in his major-league debut.
Alexi Ogando allowed just one hit in 1 1/3 innings before giving way to Mike Adams, who also allowed just one hit in the eighth.
Joe Nathan was poised to earn his second save in a Rangers uniform when Ian Kinsler launched a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to make it a six-run cushion.
Instead, Scott Feldman came on to finish off the win. It looked like Feldman would make a much earlier appearance when Darvish had a 42-pitch first inning.
The Rangers bullpen has allowed just one run in 12 1/3 innings to start the season. The only run was a solo homer off Nathan on Saturday.
"Ogando and Adams are about as good as it gets in the seventh and eighth," outfielder David Murphy said. "Joe Nathan's resume speaks for itself."
Nathan took over the closer role vacated by Neftali Feliz, who begins his quest to become a starter at the major-league level on Tuesday.
Feliz collected 72 saves over the last two seasons, including 40 saves in 2010 when he was an All Star and the AL Rookie of the Year.
Yet so far, the bullpen hasn't missed Feliz thanks to some sparkling performances in the first quartet of games.
In addition to allowing just one run, Rangers relievers have walked just one batter and collected 11 strikeouts.
It's early, very early, but there's starting to be a sense that if a starter can hand off a lead after six innings, a win is practically automatic.
"You can never say that," Murphy said. "Nothing's guaranteed, but you definitely like your chances."
Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire