ARLINGTON, Texas — Joakim Soria pitched in the big leagues for the first time in nearly two years. Cory Burns started his day in the minors and ended it with his first win in the majors.
The Texas right-handers were two of five bright spots for a bullpen that bailed out rookie starter Justin Grimm on Sunday.
A.J. Pierzynski hit a three-run homer, and a quintet of relievers threw five shutout innings to make Nelson Cruz’s go-ahead single stand up in the Rangers’ 5-4 win over the Houston Astros.
“This bullpen deserves all the credit today,” Pierzynski said.
Each reliever pitched a scoreless inning apiece, starting with Burns when he escaped a jam with runners on first and third and no outs in the fifth.
Soria came out for the sixth, followed by right-hander Jason Frasor and left-hander Neal Cotts, who got pinch-hitter Chris Carter on a called third strike with the tying run at third in the eighth.
Closer Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his 29th save in 30 chances a day after making his sixth All-Star team and second in two seasons with Texas.
It was Soria’s first big league appearance since Sept. 11, 2011, when the two-time All-Star with 160 career saves was the closer for the Kansas City Royals before getting shut down by elbow reconstruction surgery.
“I’ve been working really hard so it was no time to doubt myself or get nervous,” Soria said. “Everything I’ve worked for is here now, and I’m just going to enjoy it.”
He looked like he was, protecting a one-run lead by getting Carlos Corporan and Carlos Pena on grounders and rookie Marc Krauss on a flyout.
“He looked like he hadn’t missed a day,” said Pierzynski, the Texas catcher who watched the steady parade of relievers. “Most guys that haven’t pitched in over a year are a little nervous, a little fidgety out there. He was like, ‘Ho hum, another spring training game.”’
Athletics 10, Royals 4: KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Josh Reddick homered and drove in four runs to cap a big series for Oakland, Jed Lowrie and Eric Sogard also went deep and the Athletics beat the Kansas City Royals 10-4 on Sunday.
A.J. Griffin (7-6) rebounded from a miserable start against the Cubs to go five innings for the A’s. The only damage he allowed came on solo homers by George Kottaras and Alex Gordon.
Jesse Chavez earned his first career save with four scoreless innings of relief.
Luis Mendoza (2-5) allowed five runs in the second inning for the Royals, and was yanked to a round of boos after retiring just four batters. It was the right-hander’s shortest start in exactly five years — since an outing on July 7, 2008, when he was still with Texas.
Phillies 7, Braves 3: PHILADELPHIA — Freshly chosen All-Star Domonic Brown homered, tripled and drove in two runs, leading the Phillies over the Braves.
Ben Revere hit a two-run triple for Philadelphia, which took two of three from the NL East-leading Braves.
Chris Johnson homered and Brian McCann got three hits for Atlanta, which has lost 10 of 15 road games. McCann finished 9 for 12 in the series and is batting .512 (22 for 43) over his last 11 games.
Jonathan Pettibone (5-3) allowed one run on five hits in 5 1-3 innings while tying his career high with six strikeouts.
Kris Medlen (6-8) gave up a season-high six earned runs in 5 1-3 innings.
Diamondbacks 6, Rockies 1: PHOENIX — Patrick Corbin gave up three hits in eight innings to finally get his 10th victory and the Diamondbacks beat Colorado for their fifth straight win and a dominant three-game sweep of the Rockies.
Corbin (10-1) struck out 10 in his seventh attempt at win No. 10. The 23-year-old left-hander, picked a day earlier for the All-Star team, also hit an RBI double as the Diamondbacks outscored the Rockies 22-2 in the series.
The Rockies lost more than the game. Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez left after swinging at a pitch in the ninth inning. Afterward, he said it was a sprain and nothing serious.
Starter Roy Oswalt (0-4) exited with what initially was called a strained left hamstring in the second. It could be worse than that, however, because he said he “heard something pop.”