Ross Wolf: 'Big for us, big for our bullpen'

BALTIMORE -- The injury-riddled Texas Rangers pitching staff desperately needed long man Ross Wolf to give them a big-time effort when he wound up starting Thursday night. Wolf did just what the Rangers wanted -- and a little more.

Wolf went six strong innings in the finale of this four-game series at Camden Yards filling in for Yu Darvish, now on the DL with strained back. The right-hander said Wednesday he could give Texas 75 to 80 pitches and he came close, but the two early solo homers Wolf allowed helped the Baltimore Orioles pull out a 3-1 victory over the Rangers for a split of this series.

Wolf allowed just two runs on three hits. He threw 72 pitches and kept the strong Baltimore lineup off balance from start to finish. Texas manager Ron Washington was able to give his tired bullpen a bit of a break, which could be important heading into this weekend’s series with the Detroit Tigers, the American League’s top hitting team.

“He kept us in the ballgame,” Washington said. “I’m very happy with him. He did what his job was today. We needed him today, and he gave us what we needed out of him. We just didn’t put enough runs on the board.”

Wolf (1-2) gave up solo shots to MLB home run leader Chris Davis in the second and Brian Roberts in the third. That gave Baltimore a 2-0 lead. The only offense Texas could muster came on Ian Kinsler’s solo shot off Miguel Gonzalez to start the sixth, as the Rangers missed a chance to tie the idle Oakland Athletics for the division lead.

“I made two mistakes, and those hitters are supposed to do what they do with mistakes,” Wolf said. “I felt fine. Unfortunately, we didn’t come out with the win. The two solo shots kind of beat us. But other than that, we kept them off balance.”

Wolf battled Gonzalez (7-3) in a true pitcher’s duel, but the Orioles right-hander edged him out. Gonzalez went 6⅔ innings, giving up just one run on four hits. He said Wolf’s effort made him keep battling.

“We played a great game overall, [but] Wolfie kept his team in the game all the time,” Gonzalez said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

The Rangers missed on a chance to tie in the eighth, as Leonys Martin singled to start the inning and moved to second when Davis couldn’t handle a Darren O’Day pick-off throw. O’Day then retired the next three batters, and Baltimore held its 2-1 lead. The Orioles added another run in that inning and closer Jim Johnson finished it in the ninth despite giving up two hits.

Even though the Rangers lost, Washington needed to use only two pitchers in the bullpen in a night when all bets were off coming in. Wolf is going to remain the long man. But when Texas needed him to step up in a starting role, he came through in a big way.

“He picked us up huge tonight,” Rangers designated hitter Ian Kinsler said. “I think they were only planning on going four. He made it through six and didn’t really even use a lot of pitches. That was big for us and big for our bullpen.”