PITTSBURGH (AP) — Texas Rangers reliever Will Smith popped into Bruce Bochy’s office on Tuesday night and told his manager he was growing antsy for a chance to get back to work following an unexpected week off.
Not that Smith was complaining. Texas’ offense has been so hot of late, there’d been little need for Smith to come in and shut the door.
Sure, Bochy said, telling Smith he better be prepared to throw multiple innings since he was so fresh.
Bochy was sort of kidding at the time. He wasn’t kidding when he asked Smith to inherit a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth against Pittsburgh on Wednesday with the Rangers protecting a one-run lead.
One flyout, one strikeout and one perfect ninth inning later, the Rangers had a 3-2 win, Smith had his 100th career save, and surging Texas had some serious momentum before heading to Baltimore for a weekend series between two of the American League’s better teams.
“What a job (Smith) did to bail us out,” Bochy said after the Rangers won for the fifth time in six games. “He earned the save.”
Getting to a century is heady territory for a player who began his major-league career as a starter with Kansas City in 2012 and found himself fulfilling a variety of bullpen roles after being converted into a reliever before Bochy gave him an opportunity to close when they were both in San Francisco in 2018.
“It’s a cool number,” Smith said. “It’s obviously nowhere close to the top. But it’s cool to say you have 100 saves. Bochy was the first guy to give me a chance in the ninth back in San Francisco. I enjoy that inning. I think it’s fun.”
Smith’s highwire act in the eighth helped Martin Pérez (6-1) win his fifth consecutive decision. The 32-year-old left-hander kept the Pirates in check, inducing 12 groundball outs, with a pair of inning-ending double plays.
Marcus Semien hit the 16th leadoff home run against Johan Oviedo (3-4) during a three-run first as Texas moved to 13 games over .500 (31-18) for the first time since the end of the 2016 season.
Semien extended his hitting streak to 14 games by taking the second pitch he saw from Oviedo and sending it into the left-field seats for his eighth home run.
“He’s relentless with his ground balls and the defensive stuff, offensive stuff,” Bochy said. “And he’s just a pro and he’s a shortstop that we’re fortunate to have playing second because he’s so athletic. He’s the leader here in the clubhouse.”
Josh Jung and Nathaniel Lowe had two hits each for Texas.
Oviedo bounced back from a rocky first to retire 12 straight at one point, a stretch that included the second “immaculate inning” thrown by a Pirate this season.
The 25-year-old Oviedo needed nine pitches — all strikes — to retire the Rangers in order in the fourth inning, the last a 98 mph fastball on the outside that Josh Smith could only stare at as it crossed the plate.
“I’ve been close like twice in my career,” said Oviedo, who allowed three runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings. “Thankfully it happened today. You kind of know (you’re working on one) but like last time, I tried not to think about it and this time it just happened.”
Pittsburgh joined the Houston Astros as the only team to record multiple immaculate innings in the same month since 2000. Reliever Colin Holderman struck out the side against Tampa Bay on May 4. Houston pitchers Phil Maton and Luis Garcia recorded the feat in June 2022.
Rodolfo Castro and Jason Day had two hits each but couldn’t stop Pittsburgh from falling to 5-15 in May. The Pirates started the season 20-8 before their slide to 25-24.
Rangers: Held SS Ezequiel Duran out of the lineup with back tightness. Duran tweaked his back during a swing in the eighth inning on Tuesday. … RHP prospect Kumar Rocker, the third overall pick in the 2022 draft, underwent Tommy John surgery on Monday after tearing a ligament in his right elbow.
Pirates: RHP Vince Velasquez (right elbow) will travel with the team during its upcoming road trip, hinting he could return to the rotation sometime in the next week. … 1B/DH Ji-Man Choi (Achilles strain) will also travel with the club so it can monitor his progression as he begins a running program.
Rangers: Are off Thursday then head to Baltimore for an early test against the impressive Orioles. Jon Gray (4-1, 3.02 ERA) starts for Texas in the opener.
Pirates: Begin a six-game West Coast swing with a three-game set in Seattle. Emerging ace Mitch Keller (5-1, 2.44 ERA) faces George Kirby (5-3, 2.62) on Friday.