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July 8, 2013

Bullpen bails out rookie

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.”’

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