The Texas Rangers are thankful for their bullpen more and more every day.
The Rangers will try continue their push toward the AL West lead when they conclude their weekend series with the visiting Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Texas was supposed to be a team reliant on its offense to be competitive. While the Rangers do hit their fair share, their relievers have more than compensated for a shaky starting staff which is just 12th in the AL with a 5.10 ERA.
The Rangers bullpen is ranked second in the AL with a 3.54 ERA, a far cry from last year’s pen, which was 13th thanks to a 4.92 ERA.
Texas’ bullpen has yet to surrender a run in the first two games of this series, including during Saturday’s 6-5 victory. Doug Brocail, Brian Shouse, Frank Francisco, Carlos Almanzar and Francisco Cordero combined for four innings of one-hit relief in the win.
“Our bullpen has the been the backbone of this team all year,” said Rangers left fielder Kevin Mench, who hit his career-high 16th homer.
Despite having a lineup loaded with power hitters like Alfonso Soriano, Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira, the Rangers have hit just .210 as a team over their last 27 games. Yet they are just 1 1/2 games behind first-place Oakland in the AL West and one game back of Boston in the wild-card race.
“The key is the whole bullpen,” said Cordero, who picked up his 15th straight save and 35th in 37 chances overall.
The Devil Rays have lost five straight on the road and 14 of 15 overall away from Tropicana Field. They are 14-25 since moving a season-high two games above .500 at 40-38 on July 3.
Tampa Bay placed center fielder Rocco Baldelli on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a strained right quadriceps. Baldelli, who is hitting .279 with 10 home runs, 53 RBIs and 62 runs in 109 games this season, will have an MRI exam on Monday when the club returns home.
“We’ll miss his bat,” Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. “He has hit basically second, third or fourth all year.”