Bullpen saves Rangers, saves win for Griffin

Bullpen saves Rangers, saves win for Griffin

ANAHEIM -- Rangers starter A.J. Griffin deserved to get his first Major League win since 2013. But it took some gritty relief work through some anxious moments by right-handers Tom Wilhelmsen and Tony Barnette before Griffin was able to celebrate a 7-3 victory over the Angels.

Wilhelmsen and Barnette got the Rangers through the seventh and eighth innings on a night when manager Jeff Banister was determined to stay away from Shawn Tolleson, Sam Dyson and Keone Kela because of their recent workload.

Wilhelmsen and Barnette are new to the Rangers this winter. Wilhelmsen, a former closer for the Mariners, was acquired by trade and Barnette, an outstanding reliever in Japan, was signed as a free agent.

Both are trying to find their spots in the bullpen and getting through a game like Friday certainly has to help their standing with Banister.

"Given the guys we had last year and knowing what they could do, I would answer that question by saying yes," Banister said. "Wilhelmsen has a track record in this league and we've seen what he can do, but it's me getting familiar with what it looks like.

"Barnette is new to us, but every time they go out there, it's a wealth of information as to what they can do."

Wilhelmsen, with the Rangers leading by four runs, took over in the seventh and walked Cliff Pennington to start the inning. Yunel Escobar then pulled a drive down the left-field line and Ian Desmond raced over to make a terrific catch before sprawling to the turf.

C.J. Cron followed with a grounder at third baseman Adrian Beltre, who started an inning-ending double play helped by a terrific turn at second from Rougned Odor.

"That's all on my defense," Wilhelmsen said. "That's why you have nine guys playing. There are days when you can't find it and you've got to trust your defense to make plays behind you."

Wilhelmsen began the eighth by getting Mike Trout and Albert Pujols on ground balls. But then he ran into trouble by walking Kole Calhoun and giving up a single to Andrelton Simmons. That brought up Ji-Man Choi, a left-handed hitter and the Rangers had lefty Andrew Faulkner ready in the bullpen.

But Banister stuck with Wilhelmsen and he walked Choi to load the bases. That's when Barnette came in to face Perez. Barnette fell behind 3-1 in the count, got a 94 mile-per-hour fastball called for a strike and then threw another. Perez hit this one to center field to end the threat.

"It was a big spot but not one I haven't seen before," said Barnette, who had 41 saves for the Yakult Swallows in 2015. "I may be new here but I have been playing for a while."

That was the only batter Barnette faced as Jake Diekman took over for the ninth and retired the side in order.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.