Bullpen becoming formidable as playoffs near

Texas' relievers have not allowed a run in past 24 2/3 innings

Bullpen becoming formidable as playoffs near

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have right-handed relievers Tony Barnette and Jeremy Jeffress back and their bullpen is starting to come together as the postseason approaches.

Barnette, pitching for the first time since Sept. 4, pitched a scoreless sixth inning and ended up getting the win in the Rangers' 6-4 victory over the Brewers on Tuesday night. Barnette had been sidelined for over three weeks with a strained oblique muscle in the left ribcage.

"I hadn't thrown quite a while in a game, but I feel good," Barnette said. "I feel normal and that's what's most important. That's what I'm going to most take away from this. First and foremost we won the game, that was big. Every win counts at this point, even though we've already clinched."

Barnette entered in the top of the sixth with the Rangers trailing, 4-3. He allowed a couple of singles and Carlos Beltran helped him with a terrific diving catch in right. But Barnette also struck out two, including Scooter Gennett with two on and two out to end the inning.

Beltran's spectacular catch

"He looked great," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said of Barnette. "It looked like nothing was wrong. It looked like nothing happened. He actually looked a little sharper, pretty fresh. He was a little sharper than he was before. His cutter was [moving] pretty late and it was hard. It was nice to see."

Lucroy's two-run double gave Texas a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the sixth and the back end of the bullpen finished it off. Keone Kela struck out the side in the seventh, Matt Bush set down the side in the eighth and Sam Dyson, despite a pair of two-out walks, finished it off in the ninth for his 37th save.

"The bullpen did have a good night," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.

Kela strikes out the side

It extends beyond one game. Alex Claudio, who took over for starter A.J. Griffin with one out in the fifth, was first out of the bullpen and the five relievers used combined for 4 2/3 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts.

Rangers relievers have not allowed a run in their past 24 2/3 innings, the fourth-longest scoreless streak by a Texas bullpen since 1974. They have allowed just one unearned run in their past 32 innings.

The win by Barnette also gives the Rangers 40 relief wins, the second most by a bullpen in Major League history. The 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers had 41.

Rangers relievers for the season have a combined 4.42 ERA, the second-highest in the American League. But that is deceiving on a team that has used 23 relievers, including two position players.

Dyson nails down his 37th save

The Rangers haven't set their postseason bullpen, but there are eight relievers who could be considered leading candidates. Those eight include the five who pitched Tuesday, plus Jeffress, Tanner Scheppers and Jake Diekman.

Those eight are a combined 31-11 with a 2.99 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP and 8.12 strikeouts per nine innings. They have a chance to be dominating in the postseason.

"When we are capable of giving guys down time and they freshen up and feel good, that's when their stuff plays," Banister said. "Yes, it is trending upward."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. 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.