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KC@TEX: Cruz smacks an RBI single

ARLINGTON -- Things went pretty well for the Rangers' bullpen Saturday night when you consider that All-Star closer Neftali Feliz went on the disabled list four hours before the night's first pitch.

In his place, 40-year-old Darren Oliver pitched a perfect ninth inning and 25-year-old rookie Cody Eppley worked two shutouts innings in his Major League debut, both in support of starter Alexi Ogando's strong six innings as the Rangers defeated the Royals, 3-1, before 45,056 fans at Rangers Ballpark.

It's just how the Rangers' front office planned it out before Spring Training -- Ogando to Eppley to Oliver in Game No. 20 of the season.

Well, OK, maybe not.

"Just like we drew it up," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Ogando did a good job. He wasn't really as sharp as you wanted him to be. He was able to make pitches when he had to.

"Eppley came in and did a great job. He came in and he wasn't nervous. He just continued to do what he did in Triple-A, pound the strike zone and get outs."

And then there was Oliver, who at 40 years and 199 days old became the oldest Ranger to record a save. He struck out Kila Ka'aihue, who had homered off Ogando, to start the ninth. Oliver got Matt Treanor to line out to left field, and he got a ground ball to shortstop from Alcides Escobar to end the game.

Oliver had a save last year, and before that his last one came in 1994. He said that he realized the moment he was walking in from the bullpen how much louder the crowd was compared to when he comes into a game during the seventh or eighth inning. He admitted to some nervous energy.

"Everybody gets butterflies when you go out there and pitch, let's be honest," Oliver said.

Oliver has pitched in two straight games, so he likely won't be available for Sunday's game. So he'll be pulling for 41-year-old teammate Arthur Rhodes to get a save opportunity so Rhodes can become the oldest Ranger to record a save.

"There's no doubt," Oliver said. "Especially now that I know [about the record] now. I'll definitely remind [Washington] in the morning."

Oliver handled himself like a veteran in his unusual situation, and so did Eppley.

Eppley, a 43rd-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, had used his side-winding approach to post 8 1/3 shutout innings at Round Rock. He found out he was being promoted to the Major Leagues around midnight Friday night, so he had plenty of time to think about his big league debut.

The moment didn't faze him.

"When he came out of the bullpen and I welcomed him to the big leagues, I put my hand on him and he didn't have any nervous energy," Washington said. "He was ready to go. And the results proved just that."

Eppley struck out the first batter he faced, ex-Ranger Treanor, on a slider away. Eppley then allowed a single to Escobar, but he came back and got a pair of groundouts on changeups.

Eppley worked around a two-out double by Jeff Francoeur in the top of the eighth, getting Wilson Betemit to pop out to shortstop Elvis Andrus, who made a spectacular catch in shallow left field.

The end result was two shutout innings on a night in which the Rangers came into the game with big doubts about their bullpen after Feliz landed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.

"It probably won't sink in until I'm actually able to go to sleep," Eppley said. "I only got about two hours last night from travel. It hasn't really sunk in yet. But when I wake up tomorrow I'll realize. It will be a shock and a good feeling."

Ogando allowed just one run -- on a home run by Ka'aihue to lead off the top of the seventh, the last batter he faced. Otherwise, the right-hander, who has been the surprise of the Rangers' rotation, worked around six hits, a walk and a hit batter in six innings.

"I used the changeup early in the game and kept hitters out of bounds," Ogando said. "I didn't have my control of my pitches in the early innings. But I kept pounding the strike zone."

The Rangers took advantage of their scoring opportunities. David Murphy reached on an error in the second inning and scored on Mitch Moreland's double over the glove of Royals left fielder Alex Gordon for a 1-0 lead.

The Rangers tacked on two runs in the bottom of the third. Elvis Andrus walked and Michael Young moved him to third on a single, extending his hitting streak to 13 games. Adrian Beltre followed with a sacrifice fly to center. After Young stole second base, Nelson Cruz delivered a single to right field for a 3-0 lead.

That proved to be enough for Ogando and the Rangers' unlikely duo out of the bullpen. Comments