OAKLAND -- This is why the Rangers want Alexi Ogando in their bullpen. This is why they have resisted the idea of putting him back into the rotation while Neftali Feliz is on the disabled list.He can be a dominating bridge in the Rangers' bullpen, the link between the starter and the last line of defense that consists of Mike Adams in the eighth and Joe Nathan in the ninth. That's how the Rangers worked it on Tuesday night with Ogando getting the big outs in the sixth and seventh inning to help preserve a 6-3 victory over the A's.
The A's had two on against Ogando in both innings and both times he left the runners stranded. The A's were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position on the night, including 0-for-3 against Ogando."Ogando was huge tonight," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That's what he does," Nathan said after earning his 12th save. "He's the guy who holds our bullpen together. He's the glue and tonight was a prime example about how much this guy means to us." Ogando was the perfect tonic for the stomach virus that has been bothering Rangers starter Derek Holland, who started to fade in the fifth inning. Holland revealed that he has been bothered by the stomach virus for the past couple of weeks and has dropped about 15 pounds. "I just got a little fatigued out there," Holland said. "I was doing everything I could to stay out there, but it started creeping up on me in the middle innings. I was doing everything I could. I just need to keep plugging away and get my strength back." Holland went 5 1/3 innings and was able to get the victory that raised his record to 5-4 with a 5.10 ERA. The bullpen kept him from letting a 5-0 lead slip away and Ogando was first in line when Holland came out in the sixth. "They're deep," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "They have a lot of options in the bullpen, and they can bring in plus guys like him in the sixth inning. They have one left-hander in the bullpen [Robbie Ross] who is 5-0. They can rest guys, move guys up. Their bullpen is a strength, no question, and he's obviously a big part of that." This is the fifth time this season that the combination of Ogando, Adams and Nathan locked down a victory once the starter exited the game with a lead. "I like our chances of we're asked to get that done," Adams said. "We've got quite a few guys in the bullpen that can step up into key roles however they want to use us. That one seems to be the formula that's working." Ogando manhandling the sixth and/or seventh is a key component to the Rangers' formula for success. In his first 15 appearances of the season, he had a 0.54 ERA and held opponents to a .111 batting average. The Rangers were 11-4 in that stretch. In his last 11 appearances prior to Tuesday night, Ogando had a 4.73 ERA while opponents were hitting .275 off him. The Rangers were 3-8 in those games. His work kept the Rangers from letting a five-run lead get away from them. Holland had a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the fifth before giving up a two-run home run to Collin Cowgill. The A's made it a two-run game in the sixth when Yoenis Cespedes led off with a home run. Holland then put what was left of his lead in jeopardy when he walked Brandon Inge and, after Jonny Gomes popped out, gave up a single to Kila Ka'aihue. That put the tying runs on base, the go-ahead run at the plate and Ogando into the game. "Early, Holland was able to pound the strike zone and keep the ball down," Washington said. "Then he got into the fifth inning and started raising it. He got hit around a little bit and couldn't find the strike zone consistently. He had that stomach virus and got a little weary at the end." Ogando came to the rescue. He struck out Kurt Suzuki and then retired Adam Rosales on a pop to first baseman Mike Napoli to end the threat. "I felt good out there," Ogando said. "I kept my fastball down and was able to throw my slider over." Ogando walked Jemile Weeks to lead off the seventh but struck out Cowgill and Reddick. Cespedes singled, but Inge, after both runners advanced on a wild pitch, went down swinging on a full-count slider to end the inning. "He broke off one heck of a pitch to Inge," Washington said. "That was the pitch of the game."
The Rangers had the right pitcher in there at the right time.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.