The only way to keep the Rangers bullpen from blowing a game is to keep the Rangers bullpen from getting into a game.
And the way to do that is for the starting pitcher to pitch so well even the manager cannot possibly muster up a reason to take him out.
So, when A. J. Griffin entered the ninth inning with just ninety-two pitches, he put himself in a position to do what Jeff Banister has allowed only three pitchers to do: throw a complete game shutout. Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Chi Chi Gonzalez all accomplished that in 2015. Nobody last year.
And that was important. Because when Texas’s bullpen enters, runs follow, then losses. With an eleven-run lead in the ninth inning and the Rangers relief corps looming, it was still anybody’s game. And that is not being discourteous or smarmy. Statistically, there is an 85% chance the Rangers bullpen will give up eleven runs in one inning.
Luckily, Griffin was allowed to stay in and pin down this victory. He gave up only four hits and one walk. And, luckily, he had very few of those evil strikeouts that cause pitch counts to soar all the way up to 100.
With Griffin’s complete game, and Darvish going eight two starts ago, and both games ending up in rare victories, maybe the value of letting starters go more innings is starting to become apparent.
Because there is not a starting pitcher on the Rangers staff who, at 125 pitches, is not a better choice to pitch in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning of any game than any pitcher in the Rangers bullpen coming in with a fresh arm.
Let’s hope that sinks in to the decision makers in the dugout.
And let’s hope this is a trend and not a happy accident.
Luis Perdomo (0-0, 4.03) vs. Yu Darvish (3-2, 2.76)
Game time: 7:05