ARLINGTON -- Joe Nathan recorded his 29th save this season on Sunday in the Rangers' 5-4 win over the Astros at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
After the game he gave the ball to reliever Joakim Soria, who made his first Major League appearance since Sept. 11, 2011.
"I flipped him the ball after the game to let him know how big of a deal it was, let him know how cool it was to have him here and hopefully help us in the second half," Nathan said.
Rangers manager Ron Washington didn't waste time breaking in Soria (activated off the 60-day disabled list) and Cory Burns (recalled from Triple-A Round Rock), as they combined for two of the bullpen's five scoreless innings.
Burns relieved starter Justin Grimm in the fifth with the score tied at 4 and runners on first and third. He forced a Jose Altuve popout to shortstop and struck out Brett Wallace with Houston attempting a hit-and-run. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski caught Jake Elmore stealing second as he slid past the bag, and the threat was over. Burns received his first Major League win in his second stint with the Rangers.
"That's what we train for in the bullpen," Burns said. "It's not to come and clean innings. It's to come in those jams and help our starters out or help or fellow relievers out.
The Rangers took the lead in the fifth that started on an fielding error by second baseman Altuve, who allowed a ground ball by Ian Kinsler to get through his legs. All-Star outfielder Nelson Cruz gave the Rangers a 5-4 lead two plays later on an RBI single to left field.
Soria retired the Astros in order in the sixth. All 11 pitches he threw were fastballs, as he forced two groundouts and a flyout. Soria hadn't pitched in a Major League game in nearly 22 months because of Tommy John surgery.
"I'm used to throwing in that situation before," Soria said. "I just take it like my job and have fun out there. This is what I love to do. I don't have to put pressure on myself. I just go out there and have fun."
The Rangers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first on Pierzynski's three-run shot off Erik Bedard, giving Texas a homer in a season-high five straight games. Bedard dropped to 3-5 allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits in 6 1/3 innings. He walked five and struck out four on 104 pitches.
"I was able to go to the cages the last couple days with [hitting coach Dave Magadan] and focus on some stuff and make some minor adjustments," Pierzynski said. "It's nice to be rewarded with it."
Grimm couldn't keep the lead in his 15th start this season. The rookie allowed a two-run blast to center in the second to Marc Krauss on a full count. It was Krauss' first career home run, trimming the Rangers lead to 3-2.
Adrian Beltre responded with a solo home run in the third to put the Rangers up, 4-2, but J.D. Martinez singled off Grimm to score Carlos Corporan in the fourth, and Grimm allowed consecutive singles, had a throwing error and walked a batter to start the fifth. The Rangers had a second error in the inning, as a missed catch by third baseman Jurickson Profar on a pickoff attempt allowed the Astros to plate the tying run.
"We had him," Grimm said. "In that same position, I want [Pierzynski] to throw to third again. He's an experienced catcher, and he knows what he's doing. Things like that happen."
Grimm allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits in four-plus innings. He picked up two walks and two strikeouts on 83 pitches. With the no-decision, Grimm is 2-3 with a 9.00 ERA in his last seven starts. He hasn't had a quality start since May 30 against the D-backs.
"That's what you go through when you deal with youth," Washington said. "He's trying to find out who he is and what he's capable of doing. He wasn't able to execute."
Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts also came out of the bullpen for the Rangers to each pitch a shutout inning. The bullpen matched its season-high seven strikeouts, including six of the final nine outs of the game, allowing just two hits. It's the third time Texas has used five relievers in the last seven games.
"I certainly don't want to run five guys out there, but our bullpen has been getting a lot of work," Washington said. "I feel like if we get those guys in one inning at a time right there because of where we are, they'll be more available a lot more once we get to the break. It just worked out that way."
The Rangers went 5-4 during their nine-game homestand by taking the three-game series against the Astros. Texas has won seven of its last eight meetings against Houston and has a 7-2 lead this season for the Battle of the Boot. The Rangers have held the rights to the trophy for the last six years.
Master Tesfatsionis an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.