Nippert steps in to lead Texas to sweep
Making spot start, righty holds Sox to one run in finale
ARLINGTON -- With the flu spreading around their clubhouse, the Rangers went with Plan B on Wednesday. That backup option, Dustin Nippert, didn't look too bad.The righty led the Rangers to a 3-1 win over the Red Sox at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, completing a three-game sweep. Nippert learned that he would be making an emergency start on Wednesday after Vicente Padilla was scratched. Seven players, including Padilla, are battling the flu. "This shows what character this team has," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "We went out and played. We didn't care who we were playing -- we just went out and played. The way our pitchers are pitching, if we can play good defense and score a few runs, we're going to win a lot of games." Nippert went 5 2/3 innings on a night when manager Ron Washington expected between four and five. He also threw 94 pitches, much more than the 70 his skipper predicted before the game. "He still had good stuff," Washington said on why he sent Nippert back out after 70 pitches. "He still had some pop in his ball, movement on his fastball. We read him, and he still had it. He really picked us up." Nippert was working on three days' rest. He pitched in relief on Saturday and Sunday, combining for 55 pitches. Wednesday's win gave the Rangers a series sweep over the Red Sox, something last achieved in 2004. They are now a season-high 11 games over .500 -- a mark they've reached three times this season. The win also secured the seventh sweep this season for the Rangers, keeping them three games behind the Angels for the American League West lead. Reliever Doug Mathis did his best not to be outdone. He entered in the sixth with a runner on and struck out the first hitter he saw. After allowing a leadoff single to Jason Varitek in the seventh, Mathis retired nine consecutive hitters to finish the game. "I just wanted to execute my pitches, make them swing the bats and put the ball in play," Mathis said. "I wasn't worried about going 3 1/3 innings. I was just trying to get guys out, win the ballgame and finish the game." And Mathis did for his first professional save. C.J. Wilson was the last Rangers reliever to record a save of more than three innings, doing so on Aug. 26, 2005, against the Twins. Mathis has now worked 14 2/3 scoreless innings over his past 10 games. "We had guys that were ready," Washington said, "but because of the way he was pitching, we kept sending him out there. His pitches were crisp." The Rangers' offense produced enough for Nippert to work with. Ian Kinsler led off the third inning with a solo home run that tied the score at 1. Texas moved ahead an inning later after several heads-up baserunning plays on a night when it swiped six bases -- one short of a franchise record. Nelson Cruz led off the inning with a single, which David Murphy followed with a single into right field. Cruz took third on the play, and Murphy advanced to second on the throw to third. Cruz scored when Taylor Teagarden grounded out to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. Elvis Andrus brought Murphy home on a squeeze bunt that was executed to perfection one batter later. The Rangers' defense shined, as well. Cruz, a late insertion into right field, made a great running snag on a fly ball off the bat of Dustin Pedroia. Cruz ran into center fielder Josh Hamilton while making the plate, but he managed to hang on. The two hugged for a few seconds before breaking apart. "We're two big boys," Hamilton said. "We were running after the ball, both calling it, and we both couldn't hear each other because of the crowd. At the last second, I looked at him out of the corner of my eye and backed off." Washington was proud of the play. Varitek was on first and was running on contact, because there were two outs. "That was a big play," Washington said. "If that falls, we don't know how it would've ended." The game ended with a win, but it couldn't have happened without an excellent Plan B.
Daniel Paulling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.