Nathan Eovaldi has short start in Rangers’ win

ARLINGTON — Andrew Heaney began warming up in the Rangers’ bullpen in the bottom of the third inning on Tuesday night, as the offense cut into an early Diamondbacks lead.

That isn’t strange, in and of itself, but Texas had ace Nathan Eovaldi on the mound, and it would be right to assume that he would come back out to start the fourth inning after just 37 pitches.

As it turns out, Heaney entered the game and dealt 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief to bridge the gap between Eovaldi and the bullpen regulars, carrying the Rangers to a 4-2 win over the Diamondbacks at Globe Life Field.

This is the first time the Rangers have won back-to-back games since May 6-7 in Oakland.

“It’s good to do this, we haven’t done it in a while and it was a well-played game,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “It’s great to see Nate out there. The stuff was good, three innings, that’s a good start for him. And the bullpen, what a terrific job they did. A lot of good things, of course. We had a couple bloops and a blast, and then there’s the difference in the ballgame.”

Superstar shortstop Corey Seager dealt the winning blow, a three-run homer in the fifth inning, but the Rangers’ patchwork pitching staff — which is practically held together with duct tape and bandages — continues to be the story of the season.

Eovaldi was activated from the injured list on Tuesday to make his start without a rehab assignment. He landed on the IL after a May 2 start against Washington, when he exited in the sixth inning after experiencing tightness in his right groin. He posted a 2.61 ERA in seven starts before the injury.

He allowed two runs in his return to the mound, upping his ERA to 2.84 on the season.

The initial plan was for Eovaldi to start with Triple-A Round Rock on Tuesday, but the Rangers changed course and decided to let him get his work in with the big league club, with Heaney piggybacking behind him. With the number of off-days coming up, it’s a strategy that’s not uncommon, especially for a manager like Bochy.

“[Pitching coach] Mike [Maddux] just asked if I felt 100%, and I said, ‘Yeah,’” Eovaldi said. “As long as I can go out there and give the team a quality start and give us a good chance to win the ballgame, I’m happy to be out there. If they have the confidence to send me out there, I’m happy to be out on the mound.”

Bochy said they were confident in the plan to have Heaney piggyback off Eovaldi, especially because he has experience coming out of the bullpen. The southpaw was more than happy to follow the plan set out in front of him.

Heaney, ironically, earned his first win of the season coming out of the bullpen instead of starting like he has all season.

“Baseball is stupid,” he said with a laugh. “Today was my regular start day, so nothing really changed for me. I was pretty prepared. I wasn’t really sure if I was going to come in with a clean inning or anything, so I just tried to do the best I can. … I don’t really care. I got no ego. I understand how things work and you’re going to go out there and just try and get outs. As long as they’re telling me I get to keep pitching, I’m happy about that.”

The biggest pitch of the game may not have come from either of the veteran starters, nor the veteran relievers in David Robertson and Kirby Yates, who dealt scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively.

Instead, it came in the top of the sixth inning, when Heaney exited with the bases loaded following a leadoff walk and back-to-back one-out singles. Grant Anderson took over, and it took just one pitch to end the inning.

Eugenio Suárez flied out to Adolis García in right field, and he promptly showed off his big arm, nabbing Joc Pederson at the plate to end the inning on a double play, with the original safe call being overturned after a replay review.

“Oh, man, I think that’s twice now that Grant has come in with the bases loaded and one out and gotten a double play,” Heaney said. “It’s working out pretty well. He’s doing a great job cleaning up my mess. I’d love to give him a little bit easier opportunities, but he’s really good at what he does, so I’m happy about it. And Doli is doing Doli things in right.”

“That’s a game-changing play,” Bochy added.

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