HOUSTON -- Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan combined to retire 10 straight hitters in the Rangers' 4-2 victory over the Astros on Friday night. Nathan earned the save, and Texas has converted all 11 save opportunities this season. The Rangers are the first team to open the season with 11 straight successful save opportunities since the Tigers and Phillies in 2006.
Rangers relievers went into Saturday's game with a 1.57 ERA over their past nine games, dropping their season ERA to 2.76. That's the third lowest for a bullpen in the American League. Scheppers has an 0.50 ERA, which is the lowest for a qualifying AL reliever. Ross is tied for second with an 0.56 ERA.
The bullpen was a big concern in Spring Training, but has emerged as a strength at the beginning of the season because of the way some young pitchers have responded in front of Nathan.
"Robbie Ross and Scheppers were in our bullpen last year," manager Ron Washington said. "Now they have had to take on bigger roles, and you've got to give them credit for doing just that. Those guys have been there. It may have been in lesser roles, but they were there and now they're doing what they're capable of doing. I am impressed."
Ross earned his first victory of the season on Friday and is 7-0 as a Major League pitcher.
Sore triceps nixes Lewis' bullpen session
HOUSTON -- The Rangers are hoping pitcher Colby Lewis is experiencing just a minor setback in his recovery from flexor tendon surgery. Lewis pitched two innings in his first start on medical rehabilitation assignment Thursday night for Triple-A Round Rock and has developed some soreness in his right triceps muscle.
Lewis did not throw a scheduled bullpen session on Saturday, although he did play catch. He was supposed to make his second start on Tuesday against Tucson, but that is likely to get pushed back.
"It's not too dissimilar from what we see with a lot of guys in Spring Training," general manager Jon Daniels said. "My hope is that's all this is. We'll see."
Lewis, who underwent flexor tendon surgery on July 27, made two starts in extended spring training before beginning his 30-day medical rehabilitation assignment on Thursday against Las Vegas. He threw 41 pitches over two innings in the game, and another 12 in the bullpen afterward.
He is supposed to throw 60-65 pitches in his next start, although the Rangers don't know when that will be. Lewis doesn't expect to wait long.
"Not concerned, just arm getting back into throwing shape," Lewis told reporters by text message.
Yu, Verlander lined up to meet Thursday in Texas
HOUSTON -- The Rangers and the Tigers are headed for a marquee pitching matchup for the opener of their four-game series on Thursday night at the Ballpark in Arlington.
If the rotations aren't altered by weather, Yu Darvish will pitch against Detroit's Justin Verlander, who started on Saturday against the Indians in Cleveland while Darvish was going against the Astros.
Verlander has made 11 career starts against the Rangers, and is 7-2 with a 2.02 ERA. That's the third lowest career ERA by a pitcher with at least 10 career starts against the Rangers. The lowest is Pedro Martinez with a 1.87 ERA, followed by Mike Cuellar with a 1.94 ERA. Darvish is 3-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three career starts against the Tigers, but this would be the first time to face Verlander.
"He's used to pitching in big games," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He understands the situation when he's out there facing a big-time pitcher. The bigger the situation, the more he wants to be out there. He feels like he wants to be the guy for the team."
Verlander is just one of at least eight straight right-handed starters the Rangers will face through next weekend. They went up against left-hander Erik Bedard on Saturday night, and he was the 11th lefty they have faced in the last 18 games. On Sunday, the Astros are pitching right-hander Jordan Lyles and that starts the run of righties.
The Rangers are scheduled to face right-handers A.J. Griffin, Bartolo Colon and Dan Straily during their three-game series with the Athletics that begins Monday in Oakland. The Tigers' rotation for the four-game series in Texas is expected to be Verlander, Rick Porcello, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister. All are righties. The Rangers will likely miss Max Scherzer.
Chirinos set for first start with Rangers
HOUSTON -- Robinson Chirinos is expected to make his first start at catcher on Sunday for the Rangers, with Nick Tepesch on the mound. Chirinos was called up on Friday to be Texas' backup catcher when A.J.Pierzynski went on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle in his right rib cage. Geovany Soto started his fifth straight game on Saturday night.
"Soto has been back there regularly, so I want to give him a day off," manager Ron Washington said.
This will be Chirinos' first start in a Major League game since Aug. 16, 2011, when he was with the Rays. Chirinos started 15 games for Tampa Bay in '11 in his only time in the Major Leagues.
His career endured a major setback in 2012 when he suffered a concussion on March 11, the result of getting hit in the mask by a foul ball. He was out for two months and then underwent eye surgery that caused more issues. Chirinos eventually missed the entire season. The Rangers acquired him from the Rays on April 8, and now he is back in the big leagues.
"It's a gift," Chirinos said. "It's a gift from God to be here. I'm so thankful for this great opportunity."
Chirinos and Soto have been teammates before. They played together on the Arizona Cubs Rookie League team back in 2001. But Chirinos was an infielder and didn't switch to catching until '08 under the suggestion of one of his Minor League coaches.
"He said a catcher has a better chance to be in the big leagues," Chirinos said. "He wasn't wrong."
• Mark Reynolds of the Indians went into Saturday's game leading the AL with one home run every 10.27 at-bats. That was among those who had enough plate appearances to be listed among batting leaders. Jeff Baker only has 36 at-bats, which is not enough to be listed. But he has four home runs, or one every nine at-bats.
• Of Baker's four home runs, one has tied the game and two have put the Rangers ahead.
• David Murphy hit a home run off of left-hander Travis Blackley on Friday night. It was his first home run off a lefty since July 10, 2010, against Rafael Perez of the Indians. His last 37 home runs were against right-handers.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.