Claudio bails out Rangers, earns first MLB win

Lefty 'tremendous' in stopping Rays' rally, Banister says

Claudio bails out Rangers, earns first MLB win

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rangers left-hander reliever Alex Claudio has his first Major League win. He earned it.

Claudio bailed the Rangers out of fifth-inning trouble when it appeared they were in danger of letting a 5-0 lead disappear. Claudio got James Loney on a grounder to cut short the Rays' three-run rally and the Rangers held on for a 5-4 victory on Thursday.

"He did a tremendous job for us," manager Jeff Banister said after the Rangers secured their fourth straight victory. "He got a big out for us, went out and pitched another quality inning and then turned it over to the rest of the guys in the bullpen."

The bullpen, picking up for starter Nick Martinez, retired 13 of 14 batters. The only hit was an eighth-inning home run by Kevin Kiermaier off of Shawn Tolleson that made it a one-run game. But Neftali Feliz retired the side in order in ninth, striking out two.

Feliz has three scoreless outings since a blown save against the Athletics on Friday.

"Every day I'm feeling a lot better," Feliz said.

Feliz notches the save

"A very good inning for Neftali," Banister said. "You saw the velocity up and a sharp breaking ball in the strike zone. That's what we are looking for from Neftali."

The Rangers have also been looking for a left-handed setup reliever who can get left-handed hitters out in key situations. Claudio, called up to the big leagues two weeks ago, showed he could do that on Thursday against Loney.

Martinez seemed in control going into the fifth. He was holding a 5-0 lead and had allowed just two hits. But David DeJesus led off the inning with a single and Joey Butler doubled, putting runners at second and third. Tim Beckham's grounder to the right side scored DeJesus and Jake Elmore's single brought home Butler.

"I just got away from it a little bit," Martinez said. "I got away from the game plan, my rhythm got off a little bit. I fell behind early in counts and wasn't staying in attack mode."

Bobby Wilson's single to center moved Elmore to third, and got the Rangers' bullpen going with both Claudio and right-hander Anthony Bass warming up. With runners at the corners and one out, Kiermaier hit a grounder to the right side.

Second baseman Rougned Odor made a terrific play going far to his left. His flip to first on the run was high but first baseman Kyle Blanks jumped to make the grab and got his foot on the bag for the out. Martinez then walked Stephen Souza and that's when Banister went with Claudio.

Blanks' leaping grab at first

"It was the situation where the pitch count got to him that inning," Banister said. "We just felt where the game was at, he'd done a great job for us in all those other starts that he needed a little help tonight, and we decided to make the move and put Claudio on the left-hander [Loney]."

Claudio only needed one pitch as Loney hit a grounder to Odor to end the inning.

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.